Viking Ocean Cruise Into the Midnight Sun Post #6, Honnigsvag (Nordkapp)

We docked in Honnigsvag with Viking Ocean Cruises, and unfortunately had our first really bad day of weather. I know that we had been substantially lucky before this, given Norway’s preponderance of rain.

 

Honnigsvag Dock When We Arrived

 

As we traversed the countryside it appeared we wouldn’t experience good weather, as our views from the tour bus continued to reflect the rain falling. The further we drove it seemed the more it rained.

 

Crossroads Inland in Honnigsvag

 

When we stopped for the Sami souvenir shop the weather mysteriously cleared up enough to where we didn’t’ need our umbrellas anymore. The Sami people also (Saami) are an indigenous people of Northern Europe occupying Sapmi. The Sapmi area includes portions of northern Sweden, Norway, Finland and the Kola peninsula of Russia. Their lifestyle was controlled by hunting, fishing and trading until the late middle ages. This is when the current framework of the Nordic countries was organized.

 

This young man was not only a local guide who told us about Sami culture, he was also an entrepreneur with around 5,000 head of reindeer. He herded the deer back and forth through channels between islands for summer grazing. He explained how they make use of the entire animal, not just the meat involved. He was definitely a very hard working young man!

 

Sami Entrepreneur

 

The Sami people have lived in partnership with their neighbors for centuries. For the last 200 years there have been many compelling changes in Sámi culture, politics, economics and their kinship with their adjoining cultures. This has been especially true during the latter half of the 20th century. Rivalries broke out over the development of a hydroelectric dam. The announced deal created a major disagreement, as the man made lake generated from the dam would flood the Sami village of Maze. It also would have had an adverse impact on the Sami’s reindeer migration and wild Salmon fishing.

 

Mounted Reindeer in the Sami Souvenir Shop

 

In the fall of 1979, as building of the dam was ready to start, dissidents executed two acts of passive resistance at the construction site located in Stilla. Demonstrators sat down on the ground and impeded the equipment. At the same time, Sami activists began a hunger strike outside the Norwegian Parliament. They were charged with disobeying laws against rioting. The various Sami families of people ended all cooperation with the Norwegian government. Two Sami women even traveled to Rome to seek the Pope’s blessings.  In 1982 the Norwegian Supreme Court ruled in favor of the government, at which point all opposition to the power plant ceased. The construction of the Alta Hydroelectric Power Station was completed by 1987.

 

Reindeer Fur Coat and Other Products in the Sami Souvenir Shop

 

Norwegians were arrested and incarcerated for the first time since World War ll.  It not only succeeded at placing focus on environmental issues, but also on Sami rights. In the end the acts of civil disobedience by the four leaders, Alfred Nilsen, Tore Bongo, Svein Suhr and Per Flatberg (information leader), resulted in each being arraigned with encouraging illegal acts. They were later given fines (10 000 to 20 000 Norwegian kroner) and levied with suspended prison sentences (60–90 days).

 

 

Rock That the Thai King Chulalongkorn Helped Build Nordkapp From

 

In 1907 a king from Siam traveled through Europe and wanted to visit Norway. He was received warmly by King Hakon and Queen Maud when he arrived. This marked the beginning of a friendly relationship between the Siam/Thailand and Norway. The king’s impression of Norway was recorded in several handwritten letters. These letters were later published in a book titled Klai Ban (Far from Home). His thoughts still inspire people of later generations in many ways.

 

He then made his way north to Nordkapp and carved his initials and the year visited in the largest bolder on site. Praya Chonlaut had brought engraving tools but the landscape was too barren except for this one huge boulder. The carpenter and sailors started smoothing the rock. The king drew his initials and the Arabic numbers for 1907. Then the team of five men finished the engraving in no time. Without King Chulalongkorn’s contribution Nordkapp may have never been established nor the North Cape complex built.

 

King Culalongkorn Museum in Underground Nordkapp

 

King Chulalongkorn established the hierarchical system of monthons (political circles) in 1897 in Siam. This had a major impact, as it ended the power of all local dynasties. Central authority was now spread all over the country through a committee of intendants. Local rulers did not cede power willingly. All these rebellions were crushed in 1902 with the city rulers stripped of their power and imprisoned.

 

Memorial Bust of King Chulalongkorn of Siam

 

The construction of railways in Siam had a political motivation, The intention was to connect all of the country and maintain better control of it. In 1901, the first railway was opened from Bangkok to Korat. In the same year, the first power plant of Siam produced electricity and electric lights first illuminated roadways. Both were historical models for the region.

 

Plaque for Thai Museum at Nordkapp

 

The king was known for several actions while he was ruling, but Chulalongkorn was best known for his abolition of Siamese slavery. He associated the abolition of slavery in the United States with the bloodshed of the American Civil War. His last accomplishment was the establishment of a plumbing system in 1908. The King died on 23 October 1910 of kidney disease at the Amphorn Sathan Residential Hall in the Dusit Palace, and was succeeded by his son Vajiravudh (King Rama VI).

 

Book of Letters from King Chulalongkorn in Regard to His Visit to Norway

 

The royal Equestrian statue of King Chulalongkorn was finished in 1908 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the king’s reign. It was cast in bronze by a Parisian metallurgist. Chulalongkorn had visited Europe twice, in 1897 and 1907, the latter visit to cure his kidney disease. Chukakongkorn University, founded in 1917 as the first university in Thailand, was named in his honor. On the campus stand the statues of Rama V and his son, Rama VI. In 1997 a memorial pavilion was raised in honor of King Chulalongkorn in Ragunda, Sweden. This was done to commemorate King Chulalongkorn’s visit to Sweden in 1897 when he also visited the World’s Fair in Brussels.

 

St Johannes Underground Chapel in Nordkapp

 

As we walked through the halls of the underground domain we discovered a unique chapel, “St Johannes Kapell Chapel”. It was very inviting and comforting with its unusual attributes. There was seating for 15 people and is a popular place for weddings. It happens o be the world’s northernmost ecumenical chapel.

 

St Johannes Underground Chapel in Nordkapp

 

The European long-distance trails or paths are a network of 12 long-distance hiking trails that crisscross through all of Europe. They offer more than 34,175 miles of great hiking and every single E-trail or E-path runs through a few European countries, providing the chance to explore country, culture and traditions. One of these numbered long-distance hiking trails, the E1 – with more than 4,350 miles the longest and the first, runs from Europe’s Northernmost point the North Cape all the way down to Sicily. This trail provides a hiker’s challenge par excellence! The marker above signifies its beginning at North Cape.

 

International Hiking Trail Marker
North Cape, Italy
June 4, 2013

 

I will never forget my visit to Honnigsvag Norway with Viking Cruises and the unbelievable wind, as I approached the globe on the point of Nordkapp. It was almost hurricane strength and I was trying hard to stay upright and not crawl on my hands and knees to reach the globe. Once I reached the point it was all I could do to hold my smartphone and not have the wind blow it away. The views were extraordinary and I thankfully had a railing to wrap my free hand around. My DSLR camera was another matter. I’m not sure if you’ve ever had to embrace a railing with one hand and your camera with the other hand, but it is definitely hard to accomplish. Thankfully everything worked out.

 

Nordkapp Globe

 

North Cape or Nordkapp is a cape, not a peninsula on the northern coast of the island of Mageroya in Northern Norway. It is located in Finnmark county, Norway.  The E69 European Highway has its northern end at North Cape. This makes it the northernmost point in Europe that can be accessed by car and makes the E69 the northern most public road in Europe. The cape includes a 1,007 foot cliff with a large flat plateau on top.

 

Obligatory Norwegian Troll in Nordkapp Hall

 

Nomadic Texan at Nordkapp Hall with a Norwegian Troll

 

From this plateau visitors, weather permitting, can watch the midnight sun and views of the Barents Sea to the north. North Cape Hall, a visitor center, was built in 1988 on the plateau. It includes a bistro, restaurant, post office, souvenir shop, a small museum, and video cinema. The North Cape is northern Scandinavia’s most popular travel destination, for good reason. The North Cape is a monumental natural experience, along with breathtaking views, unusual climate conditions, the impressive cliff itself and the fact that one is standing at Europe’s northern end.

 

View of Barents Sea from Railing around Nordkapp Globe

 

The steep cliff of North Cape is often (mistakenly) referred to as the northernmost point of Europe, located approximately 1,307 miles from the North Pole. To be accurate, the neighboring Knivskjellodden point, just to the west extends 4,780 ft farther to the north. The North Cape is the point where the Norwegian Sea, part of the Atlantic Ocean, meets the Barents Sea, part of the Arctic Ocean. The northernmost point of Europe including islands is hundreds of miles further north, either in Russia’s Franz Josef Land or Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, depending on whether Franz Josef Land is considered to be in Europe or in Asia.

 

View from Railing around Nordkapp Globe

 

Nordkapp – The North Cape Horn has always been a well-known an important point of orientation for all boats and ships. The rock has had a great variety of names and it was only in the mid 16th century that it was given the present name. The Midnight sun can be seen from 14 May to 31 July. The sun reaches its lowest point between 12:14 am and 12:24 am (00:14 and 00:24) during those days. In 1943, the Battle of North Cape was fought in the Arctic Ocean off this cape, where the Nazi battleship Scharhorst was eventually sunk by gunfire from the British battleship HMS Duke of York  and torpedoes from the Norwegian destroyer HNoMS Stord, and other ships of the British Navy.

 

Children of the World Bronze Sculpture

 

The “Children of the World sculpture was started in 1988 when author Simon Flem Devold, a well known Norwegian writer and friend of children, randomly selected seven children from seven countries – Tanzania, Brazil, USA, Japan, Thailand, Italy and Russia — to visit the North Cape to dream of “Peace on Earth“. The children stayed with families in the fishing settlement of Skarsvag on Mageroya island, At the nearby North Cape they spent a week creating their own motives in clay.

 

Children of the Earth Disks

 

In June 1988, seven boys and girls from as many countries on several continents converged on the cliff to create reliefs of clay with motives reflecting their creativity and emotions. The youngsters who in this manner demonstrated the congenital desire of children everywhere to have a good time and be friendly toward each other, were Jasmine from Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania, Rafael from Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, Ayumi from Kawasaki in Japan, Sithidej from Bangkok in Thailand, Gloria from Jesi in Italy, Anton from Murmansk in the (former) Soviet Union and Louise from New York City, USA. From the very beginning, they were called The Children of the Earth.

 

Children of the Earth Disk

 

The first child made “an African man”, the second modeled a self portrait. The third made “a beast of the past”, the fourth modeled “a lady with bow in rain and sunshine”. The fifth created a bird of peace, the sixth an image of Christ. The last child had wanted to make a cat, but ended up with a man with a hat and beard. The project was followed through daily broadcasts on national TV. All seven children experienced great fun with no linguistic or other barriers.

 

All Seven Children of the Earth Disks

 

Including the 30th annual ceremony in June 2018, The Children of the Earth Prize has been awarded to a total of 27 individuals (20 women and seven men) and seven organizations. The prize (3,45 million NOK in all), has been given to nine projects in Africa, seven in Europe, four in Asia, four in Central America/The Caribbean, three in South America, three in the Middle East and one in Norway.

 

Barn av Jorden, Children of the Earth Disk

 

In 1989, the original clay reliefs were cast in bronze, framed in granite and erected permanently on the the North Cape plateau. Along with the lovely bronze sculpture “Mother and child”, created by artist Eva Rybakken, they now form a harmonious entity – The Children of the Earth Monument.

 

 

Rainy Day at the Bus Terminal

 

We left Nordkapp and began our ride back to the ship. Along the way we saw several places of business and houses of citizens living in Honningsvag. Of course the rain continued and we ran out of time. All my photos were then shot through rainy windows of the bus, My apologies.

 

Rainy Day at the Construction Headquarters

 

Rainy Day in the Neighborhood

 

Finally the wonderful Viking Sun loomed ahead and we returned to the ship cold, wet and hungry. The good news was we had several experiences in this far northern section of the world that we will remember forever!

 

Viking Sun Docked in Honnigsvag

 

Onward across the Norwegian Sea to Scotland and the Shetland islands. I couldn’t wait to see the miniature horses that this area is know for. Little did I realize how many other attributes the islands had!

 

 

 

 

*** Portions of our cruise were sponsored by Viking Ocean Cruises. All opinions, as always, are those of my own.

Viking Ocean Cruise Into the Midnight Sun Post #5, Tromso

We were lucky enough to sleep in this day and had a later tour into Tromso, named the Panoramic Tromso. We met at 9:55 AM. Tromso is filled with exceptional structures and genuine charm, in this island setting of green meadows. We met our local guide and drove through the city known as the “Gateway to the Arctic”, a starting point for many Arctic expeditions. Tromsø possesses the largest concentration of wooden houses in northern Norway. These homes were built there until 1904, when wood construction was banned for fear of fire. Throughout the city, we saw classic architecture blended with contemporary buildings, including the stunning Arctic Cathedral. With its soaring white roof line, it has been compared to the Sydney Opera House.

 

View of the City from the Viking Sun

 

We had room service for breakfast and this was part of our view from or balcony. I love photographing cities from the ship when we stop at ports. It’s usually a unique angle that most people who visit aren’t presented with. The church steeple was obviously my focal point and Tromso was definitely more populous than Geiranger or the Lofoten Islands.

 

Ski Slopes and Local Street Art

 

Another view from the Viking Sun with Tromso’s ski slopes in the background above the city. Of particular interest to me was the very cool street art mural along the dock. I thought it was fantastic. Love when we have plenty of time to scope out the cities from our ship prior to going ashore.

 

RIB Tour Boats from the Viking Sun

 

One of the optional tours for the more adventurous souls was a RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) tour of local waterways. You ride through the protected waters around Tromso. All the while viewing the region’s animals including Eagles possibly. Besides riding at warp speed, as evidenced by this photo, participants learn about the history of the city and see porpoises swimming in the harbor. Binoculars are very useful if you take this tour.

 

Joker Convenience Store

 

I love seeing unusual store names, architecture and decorations in cities, much less entering and taking a look at their products. I have to ask, would you really feel comfortable purchasing food goods from a store entitled “Joker”? I don’t think I could without breaking out in laughter.

 

Cemetery with World War Veterans Interred

 

Nazi Germany invaded Norway on April 9, 1940 unexpectedly. Regardless of Allied efforts the entire country was occupied by early June. All affiliated activity afterwards was restricted to special ops and raids. Air support for the Norwegian resistance groups was supplied by Commonwealth forces until Germany left in May of 1945. Even though are no Commonwealth cemeteries, many Allied sailors and airmen are buried in public cemeteries and churchyards. Many of these servicemen perished delivering supplies from the UK to north Russia around the North Cape.

 

By 1942 the fleets were being attacked heavily by German air bases in north Norway, U-boats and other German vessels stationed in Norwegian waters. The graves of many of those who perished are interred at the Tromso Cemetery. The graves of many who died at Hammerfest and Kirkences have been moved to Tromso from Artic ports. Also entombed are a number of Merchant seamen from the SS Chumleigh. It was bombed and ran aground at Spitzbergen in November 1942. Many of the crew died of exposure later on. The Commonwealth plot at Tromso, the most northerly in the world, contains 37 burials, three of them unidentified.

 

Wooden House in Tromso

 

Wooden House in Tromso

 

As we toured Tromso I was fascinated by the array of wooden houses, picket fences and gorgeous plant life. I can only surmise the continuous rain helps vegetation retain its green luster. Everything looks so healthy and alive with flowers and new growth. If it didn’t get so cold in winter and the cost of living was less it would be a fine place to retire.

 

Tromso Street Art

 

Regardless of which city, country or locale I am in I always notice street art quickly, especially if it isn’t tagging or trash. This art above is interesting because it depicts a group of small children playing in a tree with a cat and dog. I guess my only issue are the claws of the fowl holding on to the board. That seems a little scary.

 

Bibliotek Public Library

 

The main library building is located in the Fokuskvartalet area in the center of the city. The main street “Storgata” and the Cultural Center are within 55 yards from the library, which is also part of a complex containing the Town Hall and a cinema. The library collection is housed on four floors and a top gallery and shares the building with the City Archives. Because of its convenient situation and spectacular architecture, the library has become a natural meeting place for the local citizens, and a “must see” experience for tourists. The vision of the library is to be a model library in the region of northern Norway.

 

Bibliotek Public Library

 

In 2006 the library was declared the Best Service Enterprise in Tromsø, an award given on behalf of the citizens of Tromsø. In 2008 the library was nominated as one of three for the award of “Library of the Year” in Norway, while in 2009 a general poll voted the Tromsø Library the best public library of the year. The building is constructed under the original roof of the old Fokus Cinema. The cinema was designed by the architect Gunnar Bøgeberg Haugen. Construction began in 1969 and the cinema was opened March 16, 1973. The extraordinary roof’s structure is based on the Mexican architect Candela’s structures, usually named as a Candela shell. Formed as four bowed arches it makes an hyperbolic paraboloid form.

 

Bibliotek Public Library

 

The Northern Lights planetarium show is a documentary and a stunning full-dome visual, featuring the Aurora in science, history and myth. It is shown at least once a day. All planetarium shows and entrance to the Science Center – hands on science for all ages are included in the admission fee. The Northern Lights Planetarium was the first planetarium in Norway open to the public. It is now the planetarium at Nordnorsk vitensenter, the Science Center of Northern Norway. They have daily all-dome shows about and with northern lights. They can also show constellations and journeys through the solar system and the distant galaxies.

 

Northern Lights Planetarium

 

The planetarium is located on the Tromsø campus of the Arctic University of Norway. The Planetarium has seating for 95 people under a 40 feet dome. The Planetarium is the largest in Norway. In the fall of 2008 the Planetarium was upgraded with new digital projectors from Sky-Skan. Ole Christian Salomonsen created his own Northern Lights universe at the Science Center of Northern Norway in Tromso. The city of Tromso received the world premiere of this film.

 

Thanks to the 3D dome theater at the Science Center Planetarium in Tromso, guests can now experience the Northern Lights as if they where standing just beneath it. The film also portrays Sami and Inuit people who tell their stories and their interpretations of what the Northern Lights have meant for their lives over the centuries. Salomonsen has been recognized internationally for his unique photos and films of the Northern Lights. But he is clear that this is the best he has ever created.

 

Circle K Convenience Store

 

Before my life as a travel blogger I was in the Convenience store business, in the operations and marketing end of the spectrum. I worked for Circle K stores for ten years and only left when they sold the Texas market. I was asked if I wanted to transfer to Phoenix, but declined as my family had moved enough over the years. Seeing this store brought back great memories of all the terrific people I worked with.

 

Tromso Turnabout Tunnel

 

One of the more unusual facets of Tromso is the Tromsoysund Tunnel. It is an undersea highway tunnel which runs under the Tromsovsundet strait. It connects the island of Tromsova with the mainland suburb of Tromsdalen. The tunnel is part of European route Eo8, whose northern end is on the island. It consists of two tubes with two driving lanes. One tube is 2.2 miles long and the other is 2.1 miles in length. The lowest point in the tunnels is 335 ft below sea level, and the maximum grade is 8.2%. The two tubes are linked by 15 service-tunnels.

 

Tromso Turnabout Tunnel

 

The tunnel opened on 3 December 1994 to relieve Tromsøya’s only other mainland connection, the Tromso Bridge. The bridge had been plagued by severe traffic congestion for more than a decade. The tunnel is located to the north of the bridge, on the island side. It emerges just below the University of Tromso and the University Hospital of North Norway. Both are major sources of traffic between the island and the mainland. On the mainland side it emerges at Tomasjord which is centrally located between the densely populated suburbs of Tromsdalen and Kroken.

 

Tromso Turnabout Tunnel

 

 

Tromso Bridge View

 

The Tromsø Bridge is a cantilever road bridge in the city of Tromsø. It is located in Tromsø Municipality in Troms county, Norway. It crosses the Tromsøysundet strait between Tromsdalen on the mainland and the island of Tromsøya. The bridge spans 1,132 yards and it is roughly 125 feet to the surface of the water below. Construction began in 1958 and it opened in 1960.

 

Tromso Bridge

 

Tromsdalen Church, also known as Ishavskatedralen (The Arctic Cathedral) was dedicated on November 19, 1965. Architect Jan Inge Hovig succeeded in creating a masterpiece. The church was partially motivated by the Opera House in Sydney Australia. Because of this, it has been called “The Opera House of Norway”. Despite its nickname, it is a parish church and not, in fact, a cathedral as it is commonly called. The church is an Evangelical Lutheran within the Church of Norway, and should not to be mistaken with the Tromso Cathedral. The Artic Cathedral is a landmark visible from the Tromsø Sound, the Tromsø Bridge and when landing at Tromsø airport. Construction began in April of 1964 and was completed in 1965. It is made of Cast-in-place aluminum-coated concrete panels. The 11 aluminium-coated concrete panels on each side of the roof produce the cathedral’s form.

 

Artic Cathedral

 

The main entrance on the western side is surrounded by a large glass facade with a distinct cross. The incredible glass mosaic on the eastern side was supplied in 1972. The glass mosaic is one of artist Victor Sparre’s most distinguished works. It depicts God’s hand from which bursts three rays of light: one through Jesus, one through a woman and one through a man. The mosaic pieces are 1.1 inch thick, so on sunny mornings the work becomes almost completely translucent. When the midnight sun radiates from the west, however, the colors become passionate and intense. During the dark months, the complete mosaic is eradicated although you can still see it from the exterior. The glass mosaic dates back to 1972 and was not actually a part of the architect’s conception. The original objective was to use common glass in the east wall as well. Strip lights have been arranged between the 11 layer panels that make up the walls and when darkness falls, the exceptional blueprint of the church is clearly conspicuous from all parts of Tromsø. The exclusive chandeliers of Czech crystal are inspired by icicles and advance the distinctively cool look. The Arctic Cathedral is a beacon in the town, for churchgoers and for travelers in the north.

 

The oak pews, the large prism chandeliers, the altar rail and pulpit are the most compelling fittings, all of which are in a style that agrees with the cathedral’s passion and simplicity. The church acquired an organ assembled by Grönlunds Orgelbyggeri in 2005, with three manuals, pedal, 42 stops, and 2940 pipes. It replaced the old opus nr. 12 organ delivered by Vestlandske Orgelverksted, Hareid, which had 22 voices and 124 keys. Midnight concerts are now held in the Arctic Cathedral all year long, often including the five choirs of the congregation. In the summer, however, the church is even more available, as the congregation is excited to welcome guests to midnight sun concerts featuring professional musicians. These concerts start just before midnight, so subsequently the audience can step out and enjoy the midnight sun. This has to be a thrill to the 600 people the church seats.

 

Statue of Running Girls in Tromso Park

 

As we headed back to the ship the bus passed this statue in a park of two girls running. I was enamored by its beauty and thought I would share this photo. It was a rainy day, but I was able to capture it through the bus’ window. Strangely enough when I looked it up on the Internet it was difficult to locate. I’m not sure if it’s new or what but it basically has no history.

 

Tromso Business District

 

A scene from the wet streets of Tromso as we headed back to the ship and dinner. I loved the solitude this photo displayed and the reflections in the standing water.

 

Fabulous Sailing Ship in Tromso Harbor Across the Tromso Bridge

 

 

Tromso Marina

 

We finally arrived back at the harbor and walked back to the ship. Thankfully the rain had ceased and all we had to be concerned with was stepping in the large puddles so as to not soak our shoes. Onward to the next port of Honnigsvag and what an adventure lay before us. I had no idea what lay ahead and how adventurous our next port would be!

 

 

 

 

 

*** Portions of our cruise were sponsored by Viking Ocean Cruises. All opinions, as always, are those of my own.

Viking Ocean Cruise Into the Midnight Sun Post #4, Lofoten

As we sailed into the port of Leknes with Viking Cruises, this magnificent church was on the shore and caught my eye. Lofoten (Norwegian “lu:fu:tn”) is an enclave of islands and a long-established district in Nordland Norway. It is infamous for its astonishing rugged mountains, protected bays and a pleasant summer conditions. Even though it’s located within the Artic Circle it encounters a warmer than expected temperature range.

 

Small Community with Church on the Way Into Leknes

 

The Lofoten Islands were settled approximately 11,000 years ago and the earliest archaeological sites are only about 5,500 years old, at the period from early to late Stone Age. Agriculture, livestock, and significant human habitation can be traced back to the Iron Age or roughly 250 BC. The islands extend from Norway’s coast into the Norwegian Sea or approximately 118 miles. These waters were outstanding for Norse communities and the waters have produced massive quantities of Cod as they spawn in the waters around the islands. 

 

Viking Tour Guide Lollipops

 

Every tour begins with what regular passengers label a tour guide with a Viking lollipop. This way whether you are wearing a headset or just listening close by you can always locate your specific guide as they each have their own number. This was actually the first time I was able to capture this equipment in a photograph. I thought it unique.

 

Lofoten Welcoming Troll with the Nomadic Texan

 

Of course as soon as I turned around we faced the obligatory Norwegian troll portside. Kim and I were novices in Norway and weren’t aware we would encounter a myriad more of these adorable creatures. Seriously how can you not love each and every troll you have seen, if you are following my posts? We each took our solo portrait with the Lofoten troll and moved on.

 

Kim with the Lofoten Welcoming Troll

 

We had occasion to witness several fish drying racks as we toured Norway. They were discussed in our pre-port discussions and we drove by a few outside of Bergen.  Stockfish is unsalted fish, especially cod, dried by cold air and wind on wooden racks along the shorelines. They are called “hjell” in Norway. The drying of food is the world’s oldest known preservation method, and dried fish has a storage life of several years.

 

Cod Fish Drying Rack

 

We drove over a back road under construction and were stopped at the island’s only stoplight. This light dictated which one way traffic could proceed across the one-way bridge. It was kind of hilarious give traffic patterns in major cities all over the world. Finally we proceeded to a wharf type area with various boats, ships and structures surrounding the harbor.

 

Ship in Village by Grocery Store

 

Village Houses Across Bay from Grocery Store

 

Along the harbor was what I am guessing is the only grocery store within miles beside a ship maintenance facility. I try to explore grocery stores in every country I visit since I was in the industry before. It’s always amusing to see the offerings and prices. It gives one a feel for what items appear to be important to cultures and which ones don’t. The conversion rate for Norwegian Kronor to US Dollars is ten to one with a Kronor equaling about $.10 in US currency. The blue labeled Cruesli on the middle shelf is $49.90 Kronor or about $4.90 US Dollars. That seems reasonable to me.

 

Village Grocery Store Muesli Section

 

The brownies on the top shelf are $68.90 Kronors or about $6.89 in US Dollars. This seems rather expensive. Of course being located in a remote area probably motivates one to purchase this type of goods. It looks like Toro has a monopoly on sweet cookies and treats.

 

Cookie Section at the Village Grocery Store

 

Beer in Norway has up to 4.7% alcohol or has to be purchased in a state owned Vinmonopolet. Beer between 3.7% and 4.7% ABV (alcohol by volume) is taxed at an astonishing 22.4 kroner per liter, while beer above 4.7% ABV is subject to 5.01 kroner per percentage point per liter. These rates are applicable to all alcohol, which goes a long to explaining why spirits are so expensive.

 

Village Grocery Store Beer Section

 

I walked by the fruits and vegetables aisle and saw something I have never seen before. Remember I’m from Texas and we eat peppers with just about everything. Depending on the dish, mild peppers may be used or extremely hot ones depending on who you are cooking for. As I walked down the section I spied these red peppers that I thought were a red Chili peppers. Lo and behold they were actually Paprika peppers. I can honestly say I have never seen these prior to this cruise. I have used the spice forever, but this was a new phenomena to me.

 

Village Grocery Store Paprika Peppers

 

 

As we left the harbor we encountered several groups of wooden row houses. It’s fascinating to me since they are in different colors, but don’t necessarily line up in the same color or have a pattern for rotation. I do think they are well constructed and appealing to the local masses. We saw similar housing in Bergen and afterwards.

 

Village Wooden Row Houses

 

We then moved on from the small community of row houses and drove into the countryside. This was on the way to the lakes with “beautiful” beaches the tour guide told us about. Of course we were all wearing jackets and sweaters but what the hay! This house particularly appealed to me with its cellar door on the front side. I am not entirely sure if this was for storing canned goods or a place to ride out severe storms. The ones my paternal grandparents had was used for both actually.

 

Country House in the Lofoten Islands

 

We then passed this group of Sea-houses on stilts. They are called Rorbus in Norway. A family, couple or individual can lease them and fish directly off the deck of their house. absolutely ingenious in my opinion. Most offer either shared kitchens and bathrooms or private facilities. They have apartments also which have seating areas for relaxation, and all have great views. The bedrooms have between 2-4 beds, while the apartments have 3-6 beds spread across multiple bedrooms in each apartment.

 

Pier Houses Called Rorbus Locally

 

Once we left the area with the Sea-houses we came upon this view as we headed into the “beach” areas. It was a beautiful country road with hardly any room to pass. At times the bus driver amazed me with his skills and knack for forecasting oncoming traffic. I’m not sure how this was accomplished.

 

Country Road to Lake Region of the Lofoten Islands

 

Then we came around a corner and I thought I was in the Caribbean. The Haukland beach lay before us and it was truly gorgeous. I don’t know if my photo does it justice. I seriously wonder when the temperatures warm up how people manage to swim in the cold waters. The bay was very protected and hardly any waves were present. Probably a great place for snorkeling, if underwater fish are present.

 

Haukland Lake Beach near Leknes

 

We only drove by this beach and didn’t stop for taking outside photos. The bus driver did halt his driving for a minute or so in order to take a few photographs of these wonderful beaches through the buses’ windows. On the way to Uttakleiv beach we passed this guard house below that the local ranger inhabits according to our tour guide. I’m not sure I could really live in such a desolate place. Of course if you consider the tourists that visit daily it might not be all that bad.

 

Beach House Near Uttakleiv Beach

 

Then Uttakleiv beach appeared and it was gorgeous also, but had a multitude of large boulders on the side. The stone appeared to be either a lava product or some type of granite. The entire side of the mountain appeared to be of this substance and over the years erosion had chipped away and strewn stones and boulders down the side and into the ocean.

 

Uttakleiv Beach Near Leknes

 

Uttakleiv Beach Near Leknes

 

One of my favorite photos was this naturally sculptured heart shaped rock at Uttakleiv Beach, along with a heart formed with small stones from the beach. When they were combined it was a very romantic gesture in this old man’s opinion. I have always favored romanticism in human beings!

 

A Naturally Sculptured Heart Shaped Rock at Uttakleiv Beach with a Manmade Heart of Stones

 

This plaque on the beach represents a very important piece of Norwegian history of this portion of Northern Norway. In 1814 the long distances meant that Northern Norway was not represented at Eidsvoll. Eidsvoll is mentioned in Old Norse manuscripts. In the 11th century, it became the site of court and assembly. Elections were held, but everything happened too late for anyone from the north to join the National Assembly.

 

Uttakleiv Beach Plaque Near Leknes

 

Christian VIII was the King of Denmark from 1839 to 1848 and, as Christian Frederick, King of Norway in 1814. During the dramatic events of 1814, the whole of the northern part was in constant deficit with regard to knowledge on what was going on in political Norway. The long distances and a problematic postal service brought news only weeks, or months, after the proceedings themselves. When ballots were cast all over the country for a constitutional assembly, the distance became crucial for Northern Norway. The messages reached Nordland, Troms and Finnmark too late for anyone from there to show up in Eidsvoll. Keep on reading and my next post will be in reference to Tromso.

 

 

 

 

*** Portions of our cruise were sponsored by Viking Ocean Cruises. All opinions, as always, are those of my own.

Viking Ocean Cruise Into the Midnight Sun Post #3, Geiranger

I have traveled many places over my 56 years of traveling this world. I have to admit that none have been as strikingly gorgeous as Geiranger was with Viking Cruises. Obviously never having been to Norway and beginning with a Bob Dylan concert, I had no idea what to expect as we sailed into this small port in Norway. We cruised from Bergen north and along the coast we were close enough to see many structures and small communities such as this below. I have an 80 to 200 zoom lens for my Sony camera, so it was nice to pull these small towns into view.

 

Coastal Town Between Bergen and Geiranger

 

Along the coast we passed so many waterfalls it was staggering. I’m guessing it was about 6:00 AM to 6:30 AM and we were having breakfast in our room with room service I believe, or taking advantage of the in room coffee maker. I couldn’t believe how stunning the coastline was. I’ve never seen this amount of waterfalls located close to each other including our many visits to Hawaii.

 

Waterfall on the Way to Geiranger

 

Just as we began to enter Geiranger Bay we passed this small village on the corner. I love European architecture related to farming and small townships. It brings back memories of my youth and helping on my Grandfather’s farm in Kansas. That was most assuredly very hard work, but there is a rewarding feeling when you complete this type of physical labor. I had no way of knowing as we turned into the bay what lay ahead or how beautiful the bay and Geiranger Fjords were going to be.

 

Small Town Going Into Geiranger Fjords

 

This would be our first of several Tender experiences while aboard the Viking Sun. I have to be honest and say how unsettling my thoughts of riding these water taxis into shore were. The mind plays games with one and I was concerned I might be claustrophobic or become seasick by the rocking of these small boats. My fears were soon belayed as the process was totally organized and without issue.

 

Tender to Shore in Geiranger

 

There it was. Geiranger Bay appeared to be a very lovely port and one that photographers would drool over. How little did I realize how oversimplified my thoughts were. Each evening prior to the various ports, the cruise director and ship operations managers would convey their knowledge and views of each port we would be touring the next day. This was invaluable to Kim and I as we combined this with the daily newsletters to resolve our plans for each days’ itinerary.

 

View of Geiranger from the Viking Sun

 

The primary focus of their talk for Geiranger was the eleven switchbacks that everyone riding the buses to the top would endure. I was actually fearful that the constant turning might make me sick to my stomach. I am very hesitant to ride in the back seat of an automobile, especially on very warm days. I tend to become deathly sick at my stomach. We disembarked and went ashore without any unpleasant consequences.

 

Moose and Whale Sausage for Sale in a Geiranger Gift Shop

 

We had to wait a few minutes for our tour bus and for the guides to set up. We decided we should visit the gift shop and see what was available. With thoughts of stuffed animals for our two year old grandson we entered the store. To our surprise it was filled with different Norwegian foods and the traditional wool winter clothing from Dale of Norway. Their designs are fairly well known throughout the world. I was dumbfounded to discover the shop sold both Moose and Whale sausage. I am comfortable experimenting and tasting new foods, but without a method of maintaining refrigeration we couldn’t think about buying any moose sausage. I don’t think I could eat the whale sausage!

 

Faux Fur Hats for Sale in a Geiranger Gift Shop

 

Given the pricing, which in all cases was extreme, I am pretty sure the fur accessories were all faux goods. As a rule in Norway goods of all kinds are very expensive as Norway has the fourth highest cost of living country in the world behind the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and Switzerland in that order. We were astonished by the pricing structure in this country.

 

Seven Sisters Waterfalls

 

After maneuvering several switchbacks in the bus we stopped a pullout and were able to take photos of several waterfalls. One of the more popular set of falls is the “Seven Sisters” waterfalls. They are among the most photographed waterfalls in Geiranger Fjords. They have a fall of over 800 feet a year. Legend has it that that the “Seven Sisters” were all unmarried, and the waterfall on the other side of the fjord has been called “The Suitor” after several unsuccessful attempts to court the sisters. The Seven Sisters falls are about 6.5 kilometers or four miles west of Geiranger and are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

Waterfall Around the Fjord from the Seven Sisters Waterfalls Pullout

 

This support under a free flowing waterfall near the Seven Sisters Waterfalls, was very interesting with its platform that flowed over the glass structure. It was constructed to insure soil erosion was kept to a minimum. I thought it was unique and warranted a photograph and inclusion in the blog post.

 

Queens Chair

 

Queen Sonja of Norway is the wife of King Harald V since January 1991. The Queen was awarded a chair to recognize her work in Fjord tourism with both personal and private visits to this area. This is highlighted in the verbiage on the chair’s plaque above. She and I have something in common. We have both sat in the chair only once!

 

Geiranger Bay from the Queens Chair Overlook

 

Queen Sonja is a passionate mountain hiker and HM Queen Sonja’s Panoramic hiking trail was named in her honor. This is one of her favorite hikes in the Hardangerfjord region. The trail is in the soaring mountains between Kinsarvik and Lofthus. It offers magnificent fjord views. The hike is both long and difficult with an extreme decline in to Lofthus. You will walk through forests, mountains and plush orchards. Follow the dirt road from Røte up to Heng at 750 meters above sea level. From here the trail is marked with blue Ds, The Norwegian word for Queen is Dronning.

 

View from the Higher Up Geiranger Fjords with the Queens Chair on the Right

 

From the Queen’s chair we drove a little farther up the mountain. We stepped off the bus and walked to an overlook. What I saw literally took my breath away. It is, without a doubt one of the most magnificent views I have ever seen. Looking out over the Geiranger Fjord bay was mesmerizing and I definitely knew this was a special place. I fought to keep my emotions under control. I know that everyone who has experienced this view will agree. It rewards you with a memory of a lifetime. I think I was actually drooling all over my beard at one point. I will never forget the view!

 

Ice Pools on Top of Geiranger Fjords

 

Ice Pools at the Top of Geiranger Fjords

 

We drove another few minutes to the top of Geiranger Fjord where a cafe and gift shop exists. We finally were above the tree line and the snow was evident across the mountains of slate. Behind the cafe was a frozen lake with beautiful waves of ice and snow combined. Hopefully it is translated through my photos. It was gorgeous, if not blinding!

 

Ice Pools on Top of Geiranger Fjords

 

As we were sailing to Lofoten, the cruise director made an announcement. She told us to look to the Starboard side and grab our cameras. We were passing this globe, which represents the Artic Circle. I was thrilled to have captured the moment with my zoom lens. The small structure alongside the globe is a lighthouse I assume. We passed several of these along the coast of Norway. I would not want to navigate these treacherous waters without the aid of lighthouses after dark.

 

Passing the Artic Circle After Geiranger Fjords

 

There is a ceremony on cruise ships that initiates one into the Blue Nose Society as is illustrated below. You have to get into the freezing water and emerge having a blue slushy concoction placed on your nose. After a bad experience exiting a Sauna in the Men’s Spa and getting into the mandated freezing water I declined. This act almost caused my second heart attack and I didn’t want to take any chances.

 

Blue Nose Ceremony for Crossing the Artic Circle

 

I may have not communicated this well enough, but this particular port was definitely one of my favorites on our Into the Midnight Sun cruise. Onward to Lofoten home to breathtaking jagged peaks and sheltered bays!

 

 

 

 

*** Portions of our cruise were sponsored by Viking Ocean Cruises. All opinions, as always, are those of my own.

Viking Ocean Cruise Into the Midnight Sun Post #2, Bergen

We spent our first evening on board the Viking Sun attempting to learn our way around the ship. The first day we remained in Bergen and took the included tour of the city. The city was founded in 1070 by King Olav Kyrre and was named Bjørgvin, which means “the green meadow among the mountains”. We boarded the tour bus and drove around the city watching closely as wooden housing complexes like the one below rolled by. We discovered very quickly how good the tour bus drivers were. Several times we were approached on basically 1.5 lane roads and our bus driver would pull to the side or pull out in a passing area. How they knew there’s an issue ahead is beyond me. I do know that once Kim was rather nervous and she had the window seat as normal. She leaned in to me on one extreme dance with the edge of the road and a 500 foot dropoff. I’m sure that would have helped a great deal if we had fallen over the side of the hill.

 

Traditional Wooden Hanseatic Housing

 

Bergen (Bryggen) became Norway’s capital in the thirteenth century, and from the end of the thirteenth century became a Kontor, or a foreign trading post of the Hanseatic League, along with the London steelyards, Ipswich, and Bruges. The Hanseatic League lasted until 1789 and Bergen enjoyed absolute rights to arbitrate trade between Northern Norway and abroad. It was the largest city in Norway until the 1830s when Christiania, now known as Oslo overtook Bergen in population and business. What’s left of the wharf Bryggen, is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, even while suffering numerous fires.

 

This was in addition to a Dutch cargo ship explosion during World War ll. The ship was carrying 120 tons of explosives. It transpired during the German occupation and 150 people died as a result. This was along with a large quantity of historic buildings near the harbor that were damaged beyond repair. The colorful wooden houses located throughout the historic district are gorgeous. They were traditionally painted red, yellow and white, as were buildings in farming lands or fishing areas where incomes were lower than average. This is why so many barns in the country side were traditionally painted red.

 

Mount Floyen Funicular

 

After touring the outskirts of Bergen we arrived back at the base of the Mount Floyen Funicular. These modes of transportation up the sides of mountains are quite common in European cities I’ve learned. What is a Funicular you ask? The dictionary states the following: Noun: “Also called: funicular railways, railway up the side of a mountain, consisting of a counter balanced car sat either end of a cable passing round a driving wheel at the summit”.

 

The Floibanen funicular in Bergen is 2,769 feet (844 meters) long, scales 991 feet (302 meters) in altitude up the side of Mount Floyen and carries over 1, 800,000 passengers annually. The railway was constructed in 1918. The track has a slope that varies between 15 degrees and 26 degrees. Two passenger cars carry 100 people each. The cars are named and painted, with Blamann being blue and Rodhette painted red. Our ascension was non-stop, but on the way down we paused two or three different times to take passengers on and let a small number off. The entire track has six stops and are used frequently by locals living on the mountain side. In addition there are two kindergartens on the mountain. In the summertime and during rush hours only certain departures will stop at all stops.

 

Gift Shop and Restaurant on Top of Mount Floyen

 

The funicular railway is one of Norway’s most famous attractions. The trip starts from the city center, just 150 meters from the Fish Market and Bryggen. The exciting trip up to the mountain is a magnificent experience in itself. At the top we found one can enjoy the spectacular view of Vagen bay and study the cityscape in detail, along with the seaward approaches and fjords surrounding Bergen.  There were a plethora of hiking trails and walkways that led all over the mountain. We couldn’t actually involve ourselves in this activity as we had a limited amount of time on the top. A restaurant, cafeteria, souvenir shop and playground is located on the very top. If you plan on hiking and taking in the lovely flora and fauna you need to catch the funicular on your own and fully explore the trails and vegetation on Mount Floyen.

 

Flora and Fauna Atop Mount Floyen

 

We were able to take a few minutes and traverse several small trails. I was enamored with the ferns and how green everything was on top. These Boston Ferns, as we call them in the United States were simply superb. They looked quite healthy and had obviously soaked up some of the 200 plus inches of rain that Bergen receives every year.

 

Kim and I Atop Mount Floyen Overlooking Vagen Bay

 

The view from almost one thousand feet up is stunning to say the least. I took several photos from the top and managed to persuade a young lady to capture a selfie of Kim and I with the Vagen bay in the background.

 

Moumt Floyen Goat

 

Fløyenguttene (The Fløyen Boys), the Goats on Mount Fløyen, are cashmere goats, and help keep the mountains free of unwanted plant life. The goats spend each winter at Askoy island outside of Bergen. Come Easter each year they are transported back to Mount Floyen. There, along with the Bergen Coastal Association they make an effort each year to maintain the island free of underbrush and undesirable forest growth. The six billy goats are called “Elvis”, Smaen”, “Boots, “Festus Gilde”, Flekken” and “Alf”. They were born in 2011 on Radoy, an island in Hordaland county, Norway. All were all castrated when they were babies. First and foremost they were bred to clear vegetation. They like to keep each other’s company and mostly stay together as a herd.

 

The goats have been on Mount Floyen since 2016 where they have become accustomed to human contact and don’t shy away from selfies. They seem to love being scratched and petted by all ages. The goats are restricted with the use of modern Norwegian pasture technology, a virtual fence for grazing livestock. If you visit, the authorities ask that you not feed the goats as they receive their nourishment from the mountain greenery.

.

Mount Floyen Troll with Kim and Myself

 

We discovered this Troll on Mount Floyen. It was to be the first of many we encountered on our cruise. Little did we know their popularity throughout Norway. A Troll is a class of being in Norse mythology and Scandinavian folklore. In Old Norse sources, beings described as Trolls dwell in isolated rocks, mountains, or caves. They live together in small family units, and are rarely helpful to human beings. The term Troll has been applied to the jötnar, the Ice Giants of old.

 

After riding the funicular back down Mount Floyen we went to the Schotstuene or one of the Hanseatic Museums, and it is a UNESCO World Heritage site.. The museum tells the story of the Hanseatic League and how they survived and thrived for 400 years in Bergen (Bryggen). There is much more to Bryggen than colorful, old wooden houses and being a popular tourist spot. The UNESCO World Heritage Site Bryggen is in fact a true cultural treasure, wholly unique in a global context. Nowhere else in the world can boast even one wooden house dating back to the Hanseatic period, yet the ‘City of Seven Mountains’ has managed to preserve a whole district, consisting of no less than 62 buildings.

 

Schotstuene Museum Desk from the Hanseatic Period Assembly Room

 

The Museum offers a perspective on the lives of the Hanseatic merchants and their unique trading networks. A visit to Schotstuene or the merchants former assembly room will give one a sense of how life played out during this part of the fourteenth century in Bergen. One can purchase a tour ticket that begins in the Midthuset and continues through the narrow corridors of the UNESCO World Heritage site. Thus taking you back through time and finishing at the exhibition space in Scotstuene, the world’s last remaining Hanseatic assembly room.

 

There are several tours daily in the summer period until September thirtieth. Tours start from Midthuset and last around thirty minutes. Fires and candles were not allowed in the buildings where the merchants worked because of the obvious risk of fire. This is why each of the buildings at Bryggen had a schøtstue or shared assembly room, each with an adjoining cookhouse (kitchen). The former Hanseatic assembly rooms at Bryggen are the last surviving example of their kind anywhere in the world.

 

Hanseatic Assembly Room

 

Hidden under one of the assembly rooms you’ll find what might be Bergen’s best-kept secret: a rare medieval ruin. Dating from around 1280, the ruin has been put on display below a glass floor and is the subject of a special exhibit. The displays at Schøtstuene offer a look into both the Bryggen World Heritage site and the Hanseatic League. Work to restore the museum’s largest artifact, the museum building, has begun. The building is 315 years old and once served as the merchants’ trading hall. Severe damage means the bulwark needs to be replaced and substantially protected for forthcoming generations. This is a very long process, anticipated to take until 2024, as the construction is being carried out using old craft traditions. One can gain an insight into this impressive work thanks to one of the new displays at Schøtstuene Museum.

 

The Shotstuene Hanseatic Museum

 

The German merchants first sailed into Vågen bay in the fourteenth century, and their presence was to have a huge influence on the city. The universal Hansa network reached across many countries and made Bergen one of the largest cities in Northern Europe during this period. Their trading activities meant the Hanseatic merchants were instrumental in shaping the economic, political and cultural development of the Nordic countries. This was in addition to large parts of Europe, all over several centuries. Bergen was the last outpost of the influential Hanseatic merchants. Bryggen was included in UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1979, and now stands as a dynamic tribute to a bygone trading culture.

 

Vagen Bay with Bergen Highlighted

 

The city is now an international center for aquaculture, shipping, the offshore petroleum industry and underwater technology. Bergen is a member of the Nordic Smart City project and maintains a national center for finance, tourism, media and higher education. Bergen Port is Norway’s busiest in terms of both freight and passengers, with over 300 cruise ships arriving each year bringing nearly a half a million passengers to Bergen, a number that has doubled in the last 10 years. The tourists are primarily from Germany and Great Britain. Next up is my post on Geiranger, one of the most gorgeous spots on earth, in my humble opinion!

 

 

 

 

*** Portions of our cruise were sponsored by Viking Ocean Cruises. All opinions, as always, are those of my own.

Viking Ocean Cruise Into the Midnight Sun Post #1

Bob Dylan Concert outside our hotel window

Prior to this cruise our experience with Viking was only on a River Cruise. Since I have a tendency to become very ill at sea, I was considerably nervous about this sailing. We flew into Bergen and had a reservation at the Thon Orion Hotel. As we checked into our room, I noticed there seemed to be a concert stage outside our hotel window and it made me nervous about our sleep. When we went downstairs to dinner I asked what hours the concert would play. The nice desk attendant replied from 8:00 PM until 10:00 PM and I was happy. Kim asked who was playing and the desk attendant replied Bob Dylan. I nearby fell over. We hurried through dinner and went straight to our room. We had a ringside seat to one of my favorite musicians. As the concert unfolded we realized we wouldn’t be able to see him as the setup was back under the roof in case of rain. That didn’t stop us from listening to a really great concert with many of his oldies played. He played a couple of encores and stopped just in time for the crowd to leave as the rain began pouring down.

Traditional Viking Cruise Life Preserver

The next morning after breakfast, we took a taxi a couple of kilometers away to the boarding area for Viking. It was starting to rain pretty well by the time we were ushered inside the welcome tent. As we had not been on an Ocean cruise with Viking we weren’t familiar with the procedures and more than once sought help from the staff. We showed our passports and they were taken in exchange for a room key that enabled us to enter our room, board and disembark the ship for tours and use as a general access method for all areas of the ship. After going through security just like at airports, we decided to tour the ship and found several items of interest aboard the Viking Sun. First was a globe on the Explorer’s deck that was gorgeous and accurate in design. Along side of it was a telescope to view the incoming ships and ports, also beautiful in overall look. In addition there were several libraries on multiple decks for your reading pleasure. This was a nice benefit since the ship was literally outfitted with a plethora of reading areas.

Gorgeous Globe on the Explorer Deck
Telescope to View the Oncoming Ships and Ports

After the Explorer deck we ventured outside to the sports area where we found a multitude of games to capture our fancy. A very nice Bocce Ball court, Table Tennis, Miniature golf, Shuffleboard, along with a fantastic watering station in case you become dehydrated. If by chance you just wanted to get a little sun, there were many areas to sit and sun yourself. I thought Viking had done an outstanding job with this deck.

Miniature Golf

The inside section of this deck in addition to the libraries included board games such as chess, backgammon and many other challenging pastimes. Also shown were relic replicas from the Vikings including a stone axe and a model ship. Many items were represented for your viewing pleasure. Also noteworthy is the second deck which was equipped with all sorts of electronic games and a Scrabble board or two. We thoroughly enjoyed this deck many times, especially on sea days.

Viking Axe
Replica of a Viking Sailing Ship

After reviewing the various decks and grabbing a bite of lunch we were let into our room. It was significantly larger than I had imagined. Our luggage had already arrived and was laid out for our unpacking. The room accessories included an umbrella large enough for us both, a pair of binoculars for shoreline viewing, slippers for venturing to the Spa, wonderful Freyja toiletries and a set of Wireless Tour Guide radios with one ear piece rather than the normal two that we were used to. We prefer the single now.

Twin Beds

Next to the beds was a working and seating area. Included were two large lounge chairs, a coffee table, a working desk area and a 42″ TV for catching up on Viking news, information about our specific tours and weather forecasts. The weather during our cruise was extraordinary. This region usually receives rain 181 days a year in Oslo and 270 days a year in Bergen with it being the tenth highest rainfall city in the world. We were definitely lucky to have sunshine most days.

Lounge Chairs

The desk area included free soft drinks, tonic water or club soda, nuts and several Toblerone bars which just happen to be one of my favorites, so they were constantly stocking the candy. Although there were two luxury restaurants on board, a wonderful buffet restaurant, a great burger bar for lunch next to the pool and we opted for room service on several days, generally at breakfast. It was wonderful and one can order 24 hours a day at no charge. Great omelets I must say!

Desk Area with Refrigerator

Notice the balcony off the desk area. Every room on-board is equipped with a fairly private veranda. We love having a morning coffee outside when weather permits. In addition we both had wonderful, size appropriate bathroom robes that we used many times, visiting the fantastic spa on board. Whether for a massage as I had, a facial as Kim had, the wonderful steam baths, saunas or the unique Snow Room. I thoroughly enjoyed the sauna and steam room, but jumping into the freezing water afterwards wasn’t my cup of tea. I thought after being in the steam room for several minutes I could handle the cold room, but I only lasted about 20 seconds I believe. Don’t laugh until; you experience this Scandinavian tradition!

Closet with Robe and Dresser.

If you notice the dresser has several drawers. My dresser as shown was equipped with four drawers. Kim’s dresser was right around the corner and also had four drawers. This was more than adequate for our needs. The hanging closet to the left was supported by two more closets adjacent to the entrance door. Needless to say a couple has adequate room to store a cruise worth of clothes. We were settled in and ready to tour Bergen the next day and learn about this charming city. Let the cruise begin!










*** Portions of our cruise were sponsored by Viking Ocean Cruises. All opinions, as always, are those of my own.

Tahiti After 43 Years Maybe?

WIN THIS TRIP #EpiXtrip - Tell Us Your Story and Win a Trip to Tahiti


#epiXtrip Since my wife and I will be married 40 years this year and have dreamed of visiting Tahiti since we started dating 43 years ago, it certainly would be majestic if we were able to secure and win this glorious trip to Tahiti. If not here’s hoping one of our many traveling friends are able to secure it and enjoy themselves among the islands.
 
We have traveled individually and mostly together over this time and would certainly appreciate an opportunity to explore and experience Tahiti and all the wonderful accouterments of this paradise! We have always enjoyed the island life and the sea has been our natural vacation. Having the chance to see Tahiti and examine the traits of its culture, food and people would be the icing on our 43 years of traveling! Wish us luck and cross your fingers for us!
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Viking Cruises, Photo of the Day #23

 

The second day on a tour with Viking River Cruises we ran across a street performer blowing gigantic bubbles in Cologne Germany. Even though it was drizzling sporadically the bubbles were beautiful! A few were enormous and would cover a person’s upper torso. This young man surely kept the crowd entertained and proceeded to produce a vast quantity of bubbles to all the children’s glee and some adults!

 

Cologne Bubbles Photo of the Day

 

The Cologne Cathedral was in front of this area and was one of the most gorgeous religious structures I have witnessed. I’m not sure what it is, but the Gothic Architecture of these Catholic sanctuaries grabs me and pulls me in every time I visit one that was built several centuries ago. I could spend days if not weeks photographing the exterior and interior facade.

 

 

Cologne Large Bubbles Photo of the Day 

 

This Cathedral is Germany’s most visited landmark and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Having this young man generating gigantic bubbles made it all the better and

 

 

 

***Portions of our cruise were sponsored by Viking River Cruises. All opinions, as always, are those of my own.

Viking Cruises, Photo of the Day #22

As we walked through Breisach Germany, where Viking River Cruises stopped, we went on a self guided tour and visited the St Stephens Cathedral on the hill. On our return walk we came across this piece of history that stood out, literally from the side of the building. We were told the individual who resided in the upstairs wanted to protect either his daughter or wife from intruders. It was considered a form of a chastity belt. I know I definitely wouldn’t climb the gutter or the pole before, if I encountered this contraption!

 

Antiquated Chastity Belt Contraption on an Exterior Drain Pipe

 

I am always amazed with history and what one runs across on the various tours that Viking offers. One never knows what will materialize or show itself, when traversing the streets in Europe. This, by far though, has to be one of the most shrewd applications I have ever seen while touring European cities. I am glad it caught my eye.

 

 

 

 

***Portions of our cruise were sponsored by Viking River Cruises. All opinions, as always, are those of my own.

 

Viking Cruises, Photo of the Day #21

We landed after about 15 hours of flight and layovers, excited beyond all means, especially since I had never been to Amsterdam. We were given time to store our luggage, but I wanted to see the city. Obviously one cannot even begin to observe a metropolitan area in 6 to 8 hours, but we gave it an effort. Viking River Cruises had a walking tour that was good and gave us a brief picture of the magnificent municipality. Everyone has heard I’m sure of the canals and their popular mode of transportation, bicycles. I think I was able to capture both in a couple of photos.

 

Amsterdam Canal

 

I feel the photo above captures what I have always thought of when someone mentions Amsterdam. It is amazing how the residents can take advantage of every free square inch of space along the canals. It’s a mixture of small of cars, bicycles and motorbikes all parked and intertwined among each other, leaving no area without some type of vehicle slotted in the gap between trees. I was totally in awe of their ability to make use of every space available. Even the boats were lined up and water traffic could flow in both directions without obstructing the canal. It was a beautiful sight for this old man’s eyes!

 

 

Amsterdam Canal with Mopeds, Bicycles and Cars

 

I can’t wait to return and spend quality time in this gorgeous metropolis. Regardless of your favorite travel spots, Amsterdam is a place I feel I could return to again and again! Next time I definitely will spend a couple of weeks or maybe even a month or more. I want to experience it like a local!

 

 

 

***Portions of our cruise were sponsored by Viking River Cruises. All opinions, as always, are those of my own. 

Viking Cruises, Photo of the Day #20

Our first tour with Viking River Cruises was to a cheese processing farm in the Kinderdjik area of Holland/Netherlands. It was fantastic because I love cheese, especially Gouda, as this farm made. Holland is the largest exporter of cheese in the world. These Holstein cows are milked twice a day and their milk is the first step in the process of making the Gouda cheese.

 

Holstein Dairy Cows

 

As a young boy I visited my Grandfather’s dairy farm in Howard Kansas every year. Most of the times at Thanksgiving and we would spend a week there. The farm had over 200 head of mixed breed dairy cattle, a significant amount of the herd was Holstein. Visiting this dairy farm in the Netherlands made all these childhood memories flood through my brain. Thoughts of milking my grandfather’s cows by hand and collecting the milk in 5 gallon metal containers ran through my brain like a runaway train. The Holsteins were gorgeous, at least to me!

 

 

 

***Portions of our cruise were sponsored by Viking River Cruises. All opinions, as always, are those of my own. 

Viking Cruises, Photo of the Day #19

On our Viking River Cruise a couple of years ago, we chose to extend our trip with a weekend in Lucerne Switzerland. The first place we stopped after arriving was at the Lion Monument, which was next to the Gletschergarten. I was able to photograph the entrance to the “Glacier Garden”.

Glacier Gardens Lucerne

The garden is 20 million years old and the natural monument was created during the last ice age. It is located in the middle of Lucerne and contains glacier pots which have petrified shells and palm leaves dating back to the ice age. Additionally there is a museum and mirror maze.

***Portions of our cruise were sponsored by Viking River Cruises. All opinions, as always, are those of my own. 

Viking Cruises, Strasbourg

We arrived in the double port of Strasbourg France and Kehl Germany. Having never been in France we decided to take the Viking River Cruises walking tour through Strasbourg. We loaded on buses and the first memory I have from this gorgeous city was driving by the European Parliament. My sincere apologies but I had to take my photo through our bus window. I think it still gives you an idea how impressive it is. The European Union has to be happy with its appearance.

 

European Parliament Through the Bus Window

 

We disembarked from the buses and walked past the Barrage Vauban, a bridge over the River Ill. It was beautiful and serene. The historical bridge was erected in the 17th century by Jacques Tarade and displays various ancient copies of statues and gargoyles from the Strasbourg Cathedral. On the roof there is a viewing terrace and the bridge was designated as a Monument “Historique” in 1971. The bridge has 13 arches and is 120 meters in length and three of the arches are raised to allow navigation. The Strasbourg Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art is located adjacent to the Northern end. One can see the Petite France section of Strasbourg from the roof terrace. The name Petite-France (“Little France”) was not given for nationalistic or architectural grounds. It comes from the “hospice of the syphilitic” (Hospice des Vérolés, in French), which was built in the late fifteenth century on this island, to cure persons with syphilis, then called Franzosenkrankheit (“French disease”) in German.

 

Barrage Vauban Bridge on the River Ill in Strasbourg

 

As we walked towards the Petite France section of Strasbourg and over the River Ill, I captured these passenger boats/taxis. They are fairly common and I can only gather they have to be fun to ride. I noticed that one had its top removed. I would guess when the weather is good they do not cover the taxis and you get awesome views of the city and areas you traverse. We will take one of these taxis next time, and there definitely will be a next time, as Strasbourg is now one of our favorite cities in Europe, much less the world.

 

Passenger Boats/Water Taxis in Strasbourg on the River Ill

 

I was immediately drawn to the half timber houses as our Viking guide led us to the Petite France area of Strasbourg. The half timber architecture strewn throughout the area is magnificent. I couldn’t stop taking photos of the structures. Petite France is a historic quarter in Strasbourg and is located at the eastern end of Grand Ile, the historical center of the city. The river Ill splits up into a number of channels, which run through an area that once was the home of tanners, millers and fishermen in the middle ages. It is now one of Strasbourg’s main tourist attractions, along with being named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. The river splits into four channels just downstream from the Barrage Vauban and flows through the half-timbered buildings together with the narrow lanes and footbridges that connect them. The passageways date from the 16th and 17th centuries and are gorgeous to stroll.

 

Viking Walking Tour of the Petite France Area of Strasbourg

 

The sloping roofs of many of the buildings include open lofts where hides were once dried. Three of the four channels flowing through the quarter run over dams that once drove mills and other industries. The northernmost channel is navigable by passenger boats and water taxis. This channel passes through a lock and the “Pont du Faisan” swing bridge is in  the center of the quarter. On the north bank of the river Ill, at the center of the quarter is the Maison des Tanneurs. The former tannery was built in 1572 and is known for its timbered balconies and slanted roofs, where dyed hides were once sprawled to dry in the sun. It was transformed into a restaurant in 1949, the Tanners House is now home to La Maison de la Choucroute, which serves traditional Alsatian cuisine in original surroundings, with the authentic 16th-century beams complemented by ancient furnishings and window boxes brimming with geraniums,  These flowers can be found growing all over Petite France on the Half-Timber houses.

 

 

Maison des Tanneurs, home of the Tanner’s Guild

 

There were several classic, historic restaurants in the Petite France area of Strasbourg and the section is quite well known for its Alsatian food. Alsatian cuisine incorporates Germanic culinary habits and is distinctive by the use of pork in various forms. Alsace is also well known for its “foie gras” made in the region since the 17th century. In addition the region is known for its wine and beer. Alsatian food is synonymous with festivity, the dishes are significant and served in generous portions and it has one of the richest regional kitchens. One of Viking’s “optional tours” was a guided tour in which passengers sampled Alsatian flavors and met food merchants, a French sommelier and a local chef. A second optional tour was tasting Alsatian wines at a local winery. As I do not indulge, we passed on these two options. Other passengers were thrilled with their optional tours.

 

Lohkas Restaurant in Petite France Section of Strasbourg

 

After walking through several sections of Petite France we came upon a plaza that contained the “Carrousel Palace” and a monument dedicated to Johannes Gutenberg the German printer who introduced printing to Europe with the printing press. His introduction of mechanical movable type printing to Europe started the Printing Revolution and is regarded as a milestone of the second millennium. His major work, The Gutenberg Bible (also known as the 42-line Bible), has been renowned throughout history for its immense creative and academic characteristics.

 

 

Viking Walking Tour to the Side of the Gutenberg Monument and Carrousel Palace in Strasbourg

 

We left the plaza and took a side street that led directly into the Strasbourg Cathedral or the Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg. The Cathedral is largely Gothic construction and the architect Erwin von Steinbach is credited with its design. It is among the world’s tallest churches and was once (1647-1874, 227 years) the tallest in the world. The north tower, completed in 1439 is 142 meters or 466 feet tall. It remains the highest structure built in the Middle Ages. The projected south tower was never consummated and as a result, with its characteristic disproportionate form, the cathedral is now the number one landmark of Alsace. One can see 30 kilometers from the observation level of the north tower and the view extends from the Rhine river all the way to the Black Forest.

 

 

Strasbourg Street Leading Into the Strasbourg Cathedral or the Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg

 

As we walked towards the Cathedral we passed this souvenir shop with plenty of stuffed storks for sale. In this part of Europe the Storks has a prominence not reflected anywhere else to my knowledge. You see nests all over on telephone posts, roof tops and on top of steeples. They are treated very reverently by the locals. After almost disappearing in Europe early in the twentieth century, the country made the stork population growth a high priority with postcards, art, tableware, textiles and  two Stork based theme parks in Alsace all dedicated to the White Stork. Breeding in captivity has vastly increased population and storks are featured of the decor in many Alsatian villages and towns with horizontal wagon wheel on the top of poles and chimneys being provided as base for storks nests. They even nest on power-lines.  ….and of course, in Alsace, like elsewhere in the world the storks main job is delivering babies!

 

 

Strasbourg Stuffed White Storks

 

Bredele are biscuits or small cakes traditionally baked in Alsace and Moselle, France around Christmas time. Many varieties can be found, including new ones, so that assortments can be created. Pain d’epices (gingerbread) comes in all sizes and shapes and is baked year round. From the traditional Gingerbread man that children love to bite the head off of, to the funnel shaped cakes pictured below on the top shelf. We were very fond of this particular shape and brought several dozen home to give as presents. Unfortunately for our waistlines we chose to devour many of them.

 

Pain d’epices (gingerbread) Shop

 

Most passengers took optional tours, ate at a traditional Alsatian restaurant or shopped for other goods. Kim and I shopped for sweets, cakes, chocolate and gingerbread. My oh my did we shop. Four bags later (filled with every concoction you can imagine) we left to meet up for our bus return to the ship. We barely could carry all the goods we bought and were flabbergasted at the actual number of items we acquired!

 

Strasbourg Biscuit and Cookie Store Where we bought an Entire Shopping Bag of Cookies

 

We entered this chocolate shop that had two free flowing chocolate fountains. Of course one was a milk chocolate flavor and the other dark chocolate. I knew I was in heaven! After walking about five steps I started picking up chocolate candies, including various bark items. We then walked a few more steps and started choosing our truffle flavors. We could have shopped all day, but stopped after obtaining boxes of chocolates for family and friends (and yes one for us) we got to the register. It was hilarious as the shop was empty when we entered, but filled it up in a few minutes and we almost couldn’t check out because it was so crowded. The cashier was having trouble with her credit card machine and a line formed, frustrating her a great deal. We finally finished our transaction and left before buying the entire store!

 

Strasbourg Chocolate Shop with Fountains of Milk and Dark Chocolates

 

Construction on the Strasbourg Cathedral or the Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg began with a Romanesque style in 1176 and was basically completed in 1439. In 1225 a unit from Chartres suggested it reflect a Gothic style of architecture and portions of the nave, already begun, were torn down and replaced with a Gothic construction. The Chartres group influenced the sculptures, statues and especially the front or west side of the Cathedral. This entrance is trimmed in ornate decorated figures. These characters are representative the Gothic era and are considered a masterpiece from that period in history. The tower is one of the first to rely substantially on craftsmanship and whose construction is inconceivable without prior drawings. Strasbourg and Cologne Cathedral together represent some of the earliest uses of architectural drawings.

 

 

Strasbourg Cathedral or the Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg Exterior Western Front Door Trim

 

Like the city of Strasbourg, the cathedral connects German and French cultural influences. The eastern structures, still have very Romanesque features, with more emphasis placed on walls than on windows. In 1505, architect Jakob von Landshut and sculptor Hans von Aachen finished rebuilding the Saint-Lawrence portal outside the northern transept in a distinctly post-Gothic, early-Renaissance style. As with the other portals of the cathedral, most of the statues now to be seen in place are copies, the originals having been moved to Strasbourg’s Musée de l’Œuvre Notre-Dame.

 

 

Strasbourg Cathedral or the Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg Side View

 

In the late Middle Ages, the city of Strasbourg had managed to liberate itself from the domination of the Catholic bishop and became Protestant in 1539. This reign only lasted a short period until September 1681 when Louis XIV of France annexed the city and a mass was celebrated in October 1681, in the presence of the king and prince-bishop signifying a return to the Catholics. The interior was redesigned according to the Catholic liturgy. In April of 1794 the “Enrages” who oversaw the city government started trying to tear down the spire, until the city’s citizens overruled and saved the tower.

 

 

Strasbourg Cathedral or the Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg Interior View

 

During World War II, the cathedral was seen as a symbol for both warring parties. Adolf Hitler who visited it in June 1940 and intended to transform the church into a “sanctuary of the German people”, or a monument to the Unknown Soldier. On March 1, 1941, the French General Leclerc made the “oath of Kufra”, stating he would “rest the weapons only when our beautiful colors fly again on Strasbourg’s cathedral”. During that same war, the stained glass was removed in 74 cases and stored in a salt mine near Heilbronn, Germany. After the war, it was returned to the cathedral by the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives section of the United States military.

 

 

Strasbourg Cathedral or the Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg Interior View Stained Glass Windows

 

The cathedral was hit by British and American bombs during air raids on Strasbourg’s center in August 1944, which also heavily damaged the Palais Rohan and the Sainte-Madeleine Church. Repairs to war damage were completed only in the early 1990s. In October 1988, when the city commemorating 2000 years of foundation by Argentoratum (the ancient French name of Strasbourg in 12 BC), pope John Paul II visited and celebrated mass in the cathedral. This event was also an occasion to celebrate the Franco-Germany reconciliation. In 2000, an Al-Queda plot to bomb the adjacent Christmas Market was prevented by French and German police.

 

Strasbourg Cathedral or the Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg Interior View

 

On the way back after purchasing massive amounts of sweets, cakes, gingerbread, chocolates and cookies we ran across a flea market. It was interesting to see the various items displayed for resale and what held the interests of the French shoppers. Some pieces were typical and expected, but some were gorgeous and unexpected. We were thrilled to run across this open-air street market.

 

 

Strasbourg Flea Market Near Strasbourg Cathedral or the Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg

 

As we boarded the Viking Eir and dropped our bags in the room I discovered a new found love for yet another European city. Strasbourg is a destination, given time, we will return to. I love the Alsatian foods, the sweets and the lovely and outgoing people. It warms my heart to this day to think about our experiences in the wonderful French city of Strasbourg. Now it’s on the Breisbach Germany before and our visit to the Black Forest!

 

 

 

 

 

 

***Portions of our cruise were sponsored by Viking River Cruises. All opinions, as always, are those of my own.

Viking Cruises, Heidelberg

We disembarked from the Viking Eir with Viking River Cruises in Mannheim and all boarded a bus for Heidelberg. The journey was very short and after about only 25 minutes we arrived in the city of Heidelberg. The city of approximately 156,000 people is located in Southwest Germany on the Neckar river, which flows into the Rhine river and is basically a university town.

 

The University of Heidelberg was founded in 1386 and is Germany’s oldest and is one of Europe’s most renowned. Heidelberg the city itself, is home to several internationally esteemed research facilities located adjacent to its university, among them are the European Molecular Biology Laboratory and Molecular Biology Organization, the German Cancer Research Center and four four Max Planck Institutes including the Institute for Medical Research, Astronomy, Nuclear Physics and Comparative Public Law and International Law.

 

Viking Tour Bus

 

Heidelberg can be traced back to the fifth century, but its first written reference was in 1155. It is known as the romantic popular tourist destination due to its romantic cityscape, including Baroque style architecture, especially in “Old Town”. The city has so much to offer: charm and character in abundance between the Old Bridge and the mighty castle, an unparalleled choice of culture and entertainment, generous yet heavenly cuisine and a picturesque setting nestled between the Neckar river and the foothills of the Odenwald forest. The 1925 song “I Lost My Heart in Heidelberg” composed by Fred Raymond was a major hit and inspired a stage musical and two films. It remains the theme song of Heidelberg.

 

Heidelberg Castle Entry Arch

 

Our first stop was Heidelberg Castle, a ruin in Germany and one of the most important Renaissance structures north of the Alps. The main structure was erected in 1214 and expanded into two castles in around 1294. In 1537 a lightening-bolt ruined the upper castle. In 1764, another lightning-bolt caused a fire which destroyed some of the rebuilt sections. The castle was partially rebuilt in the 17th and 18th centuries after wars and fires damaged several portions of the castle. Once you pass through the entry arch you start to view the ruins and damage that the years have done to the castle. The area also presents magnificent photo opportunities, as this was of the dry moat with all the green flora and fauna growing.

 

 

Heidelberg Castle Moat

 

Of particular interest was this photo of the castle’s ruins with the round tower in the right section. Apparently it was customary in those days to have the toilet just off the dining area, the excrement dropping to be used for fertilizer on the gardens below. Kim toured the Marksburg Fortress the day before and her guide explained the door to the toilet could only be locked from the outside because in the event of an attack the enemy could enter into the “heart” of the castle through the toilet.

 

 

Heidelberg Castle Ruins

 

As you enter the castle and walk through the tunnel you view these iron spokes above. They were lowered if enemy forces were attacking and kept armies at bay, at least temporarily until the castle occupants could prepare. It was actually a little nerve wracking to walk under the spikes. I was glad we didn’t suffer an earthquake and have them dislodged accidentaly.

 

Heidelberg Castle Gate Guard

 

Once inside the castle you come upon walls and walls of intricate manifestations filled with Baroque style art and sculptures of the various period emperors, princes and kings. One cannot imagine the detail that went into these facades. Sculptures of the former German kings and emperors of the Holy Roman Empire that adorn the facade are one of the earliest examples of German Renaissance architecture and are gorgeous in appearance.

 

 

Statues on the Facade of Schloss Heidelberg in Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany

 

The German Museum of Pharmacy Foundation was established in 1937 and the museum itself opened in 1938 in Munich and was closed down during World War II. In 1957, the German Museum of Pharmacy was officially reopened in Heidelberg Castle where it offers striking views of the most complete collection of items worldwide, highlighting the history of pharmacy on a maximum quality level to hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. The museum is home to over 20,000 objects displaying a trip through the history of medical science, especially focused on the progression of pharmacology as first nearly a magic art, then a science.

 

 

Heidelberg Castle Pharmacy Museum Entrance

 

Berthold, our Viking guide was humorous and very knowledgeable of the history of Heidelberg Castle. One of his points of interest was this “tree of love” where several young lovers over the years would meet and extend their arms through the gap in the base trunk and large limb to secretly hold hands. As any close contact was forbidden at this time, it was a way of showing your love to your special person and being able to hide your contact from the public.

 

 

Heidelberg Castle Viking Guide Tree of Love

 

These statues on the side of the castle tower portrayed the Dicker Turm, Thick Tower or Fat Tower adjoining the English wing and Featuring two Palatine Electors (Counts), Ludwig V (von der Pfalz) on the left and Friederich V (von der Pfalz) on the right, who built this section of the Schloss Heidelberger (Heidelberg Castle).

 

 

Heidelberg Castle  Ludwig V and Friederich V

 

This villa (Heinertowner) is located on the hill adjacent to the castle and clearly visible from the valley overlook of the castle. It is reportedly a student house for the University of Heidelberg. My apologies, but I was not able to conform this. It was a lovely structure and I decided to photograph it with my new 80-200 zoom lens.

 

Heidelberg University Student Housing

 

Heidelberg Castle is located on the Konigstuhl hillside and served by the Heidelberger Bergbahn funicular railway that runs from Heidelberg’s Kornmarkt (grain market) to the summit of the Königstuhl (1,863 ft high hill in the Odenwald Mountains). The castle is located approximately 250 feet up the mountain. The castle overlooks the beautiful Baroque “Old Town” and one can see for miles down the Neckar valley, all the way to Mannheim where we disembarked from our Viking Longship.

 

 

View from Heidelberg Castle

 

Another view from the castle overlook is the The Karl Theodor Bridge, commonly known as the Old Bridge, is a stone bridge in Heidelberg, crossing the Neckar River.  It connects the Old City with the eastern part of the Neuenheim district of the city on the opposite bank. The current bridge, made of Neckar Valley Sandstone and the ninth built on the site, was constructed in 1788 by Elector Charles Theodore and is one of the best-known and amazing landmarks and tourist destinations in the history of Heidelberg.

 

The Karl Theodor Bridge or Old Bridge,

 

After going out on the overlook, which is a magnificent place for photos, especially panoramas, we then strolled through the courtyard and came upon this Sundial that was in use hundreds of years ago and according to Berthold our Viking guide, the sundial is more accurate than most clocks.

 

The Courtyard Sundial in Heidelberg Castle

 

I am sad that my photos of the world’s largest wine-cask, didn’t turn out. It is named the “Heidelberg Tun” and holds approximately 219,000 liters of wine or 58,574 US gallons. One hundred and thirty oak trees were sacrificed for this barrel. The vat is credited in several novels including “Five Weeks in a Balloon” by Jules Verne, “Les Miserables” by Victor Hugo, “Moby-Dick” by Herman Melville and “A Tramp Abroad” by Mark Twain. It is located underneath the castle.

 

Perkeo of Heidelberg (born Clemens Pankert) was a jester and court dwarf for Palatine Charles III Philip in Heidelberg. He was originally a button maker in Salorno Italy, South Tyrol. In about 1718 Perkeo met Prince Charles III Philip who ruled Tyrol and a portion of Austria. When Philip was made the Electorate Palatinate, Perkeo moved to the Heidelberg Castle with Charles III. His name represents his famous response “perche no?” (“why not” in Italian) when asked if he desired another cup of wine at royal events.

 

Current narratives allege he drank from five to eight US gallons of wine a day. In addition he oversaw the previous mentioned wine-cask, which many found comical, given his propensity for drinking. Per local legend he lived into his eighties never ingesting anything but wine. One day he took sick and the Doctor ordered him to drink water. He died the next day according to folklore.

 

Perkeo Court Jester at the Heidelberg Castle

 

After we left the castle we toured Old Town and were released to walk on our own for a brief period. In the middle of Old Town is their beautiful Church of the Holy Spirit. A gorgeous sanctuary completed in 1426 while the Spire was finished in 1439. The famous Palatine Library, “Bibloteca Palatina” originated and was retained in the gallery of the church, where light was appropriate for extensive reading. Maximillian I, Elector of Bavaria took the entire collection of manuscripts and books and gave them to the Pope during the 30 years war between 1618-1648. Only 885 were returned of the original 5,000 books and 3,524 manuscripts.

 

 

The remainder of the books stayed at the Vatican Library in the Bibliotheca Palatina section. During the University of Heidelberg Jubilee several of these books were temporarily returned and placed on display. In the beginning the Church was was used by Catholics and Protestants and even at the same time. A wall was erected in 1706 to separate the two congregations until 1936 when the wall was removed and the church became exclusively Protestant.

 

 

Church of the Holy Spirit

 

A block or two away from the church was Sofiestrabe street which leads to the Old Bridge. The overpass has been destroyed and rebuilt at least eight times since it was constructed as Roman wood pile bridge in the first century. In the second century a stone bridge was erected by the Romans and eventually collapsed. It was over a thousand years before in 1284 a written mention of another bridge was stated. The first five bridges all collapsed when hit by ice flows in 1288, 1308, 1340, 1400 and 1470.

 

 

Heidelberg Street Going to the Old Bridge Gate

 

There are no renderings of these initial five bridges, but there are of the 6th bridge which had a wooden covered wooden roadway that was open at the sides. There is a much more detailed illustration in Sebastian Munster’s Cosmographia of 1550. In the Heidelberg Panorama a bridge on eight stone pillars is evident. The two towers of the bridge gate can be made out at the southern end of the bridge and the monkey tower is on the seventh pillar, towards the north end of the bridge. Had to capture this moment with a photo of Kim in front of the Old Bridge Gate.

 

Kim at the Old Bridge Gate in Heidelberg

 

The “Cosmographia” was one of the most successful and popular books of the 16th century. It encompassed 24 editions in 100 years. This accomplishment was a result of extraordinary woodcuts by Hans Holbein the Younger, Urs Graf, Hans Rudoplh Manuel Deutsch and David Kandel. It was most important in establishing cartography in 16th-century Europe. Among the notable maps within “Cosmographia” is the map “Tabula novarum insularum”, which is credited as the first map to show the American continents as geographically discrete and interprets from Latin as “New board islands”

 

Old Bridge Gate in Heidelberg

 

Directly behind the double towered gate on the south end is a statue honoring Karl Theodore who reigned as Prince-Elector and Count Palatine from 1742, as Duke of Julich and Berg from 1742 and also as prince-elector and Duke of Bavaria from 1777 to his death in 1799. He was a member of the House of Palatine-Sulzbach, a branch of the House of Wittelsbach. During his reign he oversaw construction the “Old Bridge” which was completed in 1788. The statute was built by Franz Conrad Linck and the three female figures at the foot of this statue symbolize piety, justice, agriculture and trade.

 

Statue of Karl Theodore on Old Bridge in Heidelberg

 

Heidelberg City Hall (‘Rathaus’) is located right on Market Square in the backdrop of the historic Old Town, the world-famous Castle ruins and the banks of the river Neckar. It is the focal point for local politics and the nerve center of the city’s governmental services. For citizens of the Old Town, it is also their local municipal main office, the “little city hall”, as it is known. Each neighborhood has one, so locals do not have to travel too far for help and advice.

 

Heideleberg Rathaus City Hall

 

Cafe Gundel is one of the oldest artisan bakeries in Heidelberg and serves a myriad of cakes, pastries and sweet goods along with seasonal goodies. The perennial goods include rhubarb cake in March, cherry jock (lattice pie) in June, onion cake in September, Easter bunnies and various handmade chocolates at Easter. Sandwiches and breakfast items are also offered in an original house constructed in 1720 and run by Christian Gundel a fourth generation owner.

 

Heidelberg Castle Cafe Gundel

 

The Cafe Knosel is located across from the Church of the Holy Spirit and is the oldest coffeehouse in Heidleberg. They use a small number of handpicked, regional specialist suppliers on their provider list. This is to ensure that only fresh goods are processed and served on the table. They offer breakfast from 8:00 AM until 11:00 AM and lunch from 11:00 AM until 2:00 PM, serving a wide variety of items priced reasonably for your budget’s sake. Dinner is served until 10:00 PM nightly. The menu includes a myriad of desserts along with an extensive presentation of beer and wines.

 

Heidelberg Cafe Knosel Oldest Cafe in the City

 

I cannot go to Europe without treating Kim and myself to Gelato. It’s a little bit of heaven in my opinion. Even though our traditional US ice cream is laden with butter fat, it’s not the same. In Heidelberg I managed to snap a photo before diving in to my bowl. I have to recommend “That’s Gelato” which has several outlets in Heidelberg area. It was delicious and definitely up to our expectations!

 

Gelato in Heidelberg Old Town

 

Our Viking bus dropped us off at this inn to the iron cross on Karlsplatz and then we walked in the direction of Kornmarkt in Heidelberg. Here at the Galthaus zum Eisernen Kruez inn in Heidelberg’s old town on Karlsplatz, we started our city tour of Heidelberg with our guide. We visited several points of interest mentioned above and returned to this spot to catch our bus back to the Viking Longship Eir.

 

We ended our visit to Heidelberg and began thinking about Strasbourg and Kim and my first visit to France! Little did we know how much we would love their pastries, candy and other sweets. We went crazy! Can’t wait to  show you what we bought and ate. I think I gained seven pounds on this cruise and most of it can be attributed to the pastries, cakes and sweets we bought in Strasbourg!

 

 

Heidelberg Beer Haus on the Square

 

 

 

 

 

 

***Portions of our cruise were sponsored by Viking River Cruises. All opinions, as always, are those of my own.

Viking Cruises, Koblenz Germany and the Middle Rhine

We docked in Koblenz on our third full day with Viking River Cruises and had several choices of tours. One of the features I love with Viking is the ability to scope out all tours ahead of time and sign up for the “included tours” as you complete your personal form of registration. Kim was interested in the tour of the Marksburg Castle, but given my back issues I opted to remain on board and hopefully capture the magnificent homes, castles and other architectural interesting buildings on the Middle Rhine. She went ahead with the tour. I was glad I remained on board. As we sailed to Braubach, where Kim and the others would rejoin us. I noticed that there was a cable car running high above the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle rivers where we docked. The cable car takes passengers to the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress and returns them after the visit. This was our view as the early morning tours disembarked.

 

Cable Car In Koblenz to the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress

 

As we pulled out of port I noticed this gorgeous statue off to the left of us and discovered it was erected in honor of William the Great of Germany. William was the last German Emperor (Kaiser) and King of Germany. He was a heir of the royal house of Hohenzollern and was exposed to the military society of the Prussian aristocracy. This had a major impact on him and he was rarely seen out of uniform. He was a major force in the creation of the German Navy that would eventually rival Britain as a world power. He enthusiastically promoted technology, industry, the arts and sciences as well as public education and social welfare. Kim and the group weren’t able to see this very large and detailed tribute to William.

 

Monument to William the Great of Germany

 

The Marksburg Castle was erected around 1100 is located above the German town of Braubach. The fortress was used for protection rather than as a residence by the royal families. It is part of the Rhine Gorge UNESCO World Heritage Site and was the only castle out of 40 castles between Bingen am Rhein and Koblenz that was never destroyed although badly damaged by American artillery fire in March of 1945

 

 

Entrance Steps to the Marksburg Castle

 

Obviously the stone steps are rough and you need to wear the appropriate type of shoes when walking through the castle. Kim also told me that certain passage ways were very short and people had to virtually lean to pass through a few halls. The tour was listed by Viking as “Demanding”, which persuaded me to pass. Kim told me she was glad I did.

 

View of Rhine from Marksburg Castle

 

Obviously the view from the castle across the Rhine was gorgeous and one I am sure I would have enjoyed. I am glad Kim took photos for the Nomadic Texan! This gigantic wine press was a novel item for me and I thought it worthy of inclusion. It would give me more confidence than people’s feet! LOL!

 

Wine Press in Marksburg Castle

 

The suits of armor were very cool and I think a knight would have to be really strong in order to parade around in these metal suits, much less go to battle and try to protect yourself. A typical suit can weigh anywhere from about 22 pounds to 110 pounds depending on its materials.

 

 

Suits of Armor in the Marksburg Castle

 

I had to show this photo, as we both thought it was a novel approach. The castle’s toilet actually protruded out over the garden and human waste was displaced onto the plants below as fertilizer. The door locked from the castle side as intruders sometimes tried to climb the exterior, enter the toilet (disgusting if they meant they came in through the seat) and try to vandalize the castle, steal it’s contents or maim it’s inhabitants. So locking it from the castle side prevented egress.

 

 

Toilet for Exterior Displacement in the Marksburg Castle

 

As we headed down the Middle Rhine I went up top to the upper deck. The weather was great. Every cruise I take with Viking I capture the Lifebuoy or if you prefer Lifering, so that down the road I will have no issues with the name of the Longship we sailed on. Love that it shows the home port of Basel Switzerland and how excellent the knot is tied. Makes me feel more comfortable about the overall maintenance of the ship.

 

Viking Eir Lifebuoy or Lifering

 

It wasn’t  long before we encountered structures on both sides of the ship along the Middle Rhine. It didn’t take much for me to be comfortable in the fact that I stayed behind. If I had gone I would have missed all this beautiful architecture, castles, hotels and houses. This section of the Rhine river is known as the Rhine Gorge and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It runs from Koblenz to Bingen and Rudesheim. The entire valley is known as the Romantic Rhine. There are forty plus Castles and Fortresses along this section of the Rhine River. I highly advise you see this section of the river from the ships during daylight hours!

 

The first castle pictured is the Katz Castle which was built in the second half of the fourteenth century as a stronghold and military base to protect the Rheinfels Castle. Both castles were built to protect the Salmon fishing in the Rhine. Salmon disappeared from the Swiss Rhine about 50 years ago, due to poor water quality and the construction of hydro-electric power plants. From the Katz Castle vantage point it was next to impossible to be conquered from the valley below.

 

Katz Castle in Altstadt & Burg Katz

 

Maus (Mouse) Castle was erected by Archbisop Balduin between 1353-1388. It is actually called Thurnburg. At the time it was one of the most modern and technically constructed castles of its time. The people invented the story that both castles spied upon themselves like a cat and mouse, as they were occupied by opposing forces in the 13oo’s. Today Mouse Castle is open for visitors to admire period furniture and interesting collections.

 

Burg Maus (Mouse) Castle Along the Middle Rhine, Named Because the Owner had another Large Castle Called Katz

 

Rheinfels Fortress was built around 1245 and was the Count of Katzeninbogen’s residence initially. When the Katzeninbogen dynasty passed the ownership of the castle transferred to the House of Hesse. With this conversion, it became one of the strongest fortresses in Germany. As the only military complex on the left bank of the Rhine river it withstood the troops of Louis XIV in 1692. In 1796/97 the French Revolutionary Army overtook the structure without a struggle and blew up the exterior walls and the castle. Today visitors are surprised by the size of the ruins, as well as the web of trenches and tunnels which in most cases still are functional.

 

 

Burg Rheinfels Castle at St. Goar

 

Schönburg Castle was first mentioned in history between the years 900 and 1100. The Dukes of Schonburg ruled the town of Obelweser and were able to levy taxes on the Rhine. The most famous was Friedrich von Schonburg, a feared man who served as a colonel and general under the King of France in the 17th century. The castle was burned down in 1689 by French soldiers during the Palatinate wars. It remained in ruins until it was acquired by the German-American Rhinelander family in the late 19th century and restored it. In 1950 the town of Oberwesel obtained the castle back and signed a long-term lease with the Hutti family who operate it as a prosperous Hotel and restaurant.

 

 

 

Viking River Cruises Docking Port on the Rhine in Obelweser with Schonburg Castle on the Hill, which is now a Luxury Hotel

 

Along with the various castles and fortresses roughly 450,000 people call the Middle Rhine home. The river is abundant with gorgeous hotels, houses and structures from 900 AD through present day. Most are very detailed and beautiful in appearance from the exterior. I couldn’t take photos fast enough and tried to view both sides of the river equally. It was difficult at times. The Rhine Gorge as mentioned above, refers to the narrow gorge of the Rhine running through the Rhenish Slate Mountains between Bingen am Rhein and Rudesheim am Rhein in the south and Bonn-Oberkassel in the north. The basin at Neuwied separates the lower and upper halves of the Middle Rhine. The following are samples of houses, hotels and other acrchitecture we saw.

 

House Along the Middle Rhine

 

Hotel Loreleyblick Cafe and Restaurant, Loreley Germany

 

Hotel Keutmann Restaurant and Cafe Along the Middle Rhine

 

Half Timber Houses in Loreley & Goarshausen

 

Zur Klosterschenfe Hotel

 

On our Viking tour of the Middle Rhine River we learned the reason for the German train tunnels looking like castles along the Middle Rhine. The Germans learned quickly that allied air force groups would try valiantly to not cause any damage to the extraordinary castles throughout Germany, as well as the beautiful cathedrals when possible.
The allied forces were instructed to avoid bombing well known structures when at all possible. This caused the German engineers to build most of the train tunnels along this area of the Middle Rhine, to resemble towers and walls of the local castles.

 

The allied planes focused on military and industrial targets such as factories. Additionally castles were usually located away from heavily populated areas. This doesn’t mean there was no damage to castles, but most were spared. This was actually a brilliant method of avoiding destruction of the tunnels. They played on our sentimental values and kept trains running, transporting tanks, German militia and supplies to the front lines. The castle disguises were successful.

 

Tunnel Entrance Constructed to Look Like a Castle for Disguise During World War II

 

 

Our middle Rhine sail with Viking went past the Lorelei Mermaid statue and rock. Legend has it that this siren, originally betrayed by her sweetheart, was accused of bewitching men and causing their death. Rather than sentence her to die, the bishop sent her to a nunnery.

 

On the way there, accompanied by three knights, she came to the Lorelei rock. She requested a climb on the rock to view the Rhine one last time. She scaled the rock, thinking she saw her sweetheart in the river and fell to her death. Afterwards echos of her name emanated from the rock when sailors traveled past.

 

Legend states as she was combing her golden hair the sailors became distracted. Her beauty and singing, then caused the sailors to crash into the rocks and perish immediately. Songs, amusing tales and local legends reaffirm this story and have helped it cultivate over the ages. Many poems and Operas were written to commemorate Lorelei!

 

Mystical Mermaid Lorelei 16 Foot Tall

 

That evening we docked in Rudesheim, a town in the Rhine Valley known for wine making, especially Riesling wines. In the center, Drosselgasse is a lane lined with shops, taverns and restaurants. We ate at the Drosselgasse restaurant and had a great time. Although people who imbibed had a significantly better time I’m guessing. It was a party with dancing, adult drinking games singing and lots of beer!

 

Rüdesheim lies at the foot of the Niederwald on the Rhine’s right (east) bank on the southern approach to the Loreley. The town belongs to the Frankfurt Rhine Main Region and is one of Germany’s biggest tourist attractions. Only the Cologne Cathedral draws more tourists from other countries. Making the town worth visiting is, not only the wine or even the Old Town itself, but also the picturesque Rheingau landscape together with the romantic Rhine.

 

 

Hotel Post in Rudesheim

 

Parkplatz Street in Rudesheim

 

 

Drosselgasse Lane in Rudesheim

 

 

Drosselhoff Restaurant Entrance in Rudesheim

 

 

Drosselhoff Restaurant Stained Glass Ar in Rudesheim

 

Drosselhoff Restaurant Salad in Rudesheim

 

Drosselhoff Restaurant Pork Entree in Rudesheim

 

This day was a stellar one, especially given I had purchased a zoom lens for my camera right before we left and I had a substantial opportunity to use it on this leg of the cruise. Between the architecture and the more than forty historic castles, I gained great experience. I have been a photographer for many years and even have used a zoom in the past with my old Nikormat from Japan. I was thrilled that Viking gave me this chance by sailing this portion of the Middle Rhine in the daytime. Now on to Heidelberg!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

***Portions of our cruise were sponsored by Viking River Cruises. All opinions, as always, are those of my own.

Viking Cruises, Cologne Germany

On our second full day with our Rhine Getaway cruise on Viking River Cruises, we visited Cologne Germany and had a walking tour which included the Cologne Cathedral, Old Town and the St. Martin’s Church. As in most European cities the architecture was gorgeous and primarily filled with vintage buildings.

 

Anniversary Cake from The Viking Eir Staff

 

The primary reason we decided on the Rhine Getaway cruise was that our 39th wedding anniversary fell during the length of this cruise and it explored several countries we haven’t visited. I surprised Kim the second day, which was our actual anniversary with flowers, candy, fruit and a bottle of sparkling bubbly. What I didn’t know was the staff of the Viking Eir had a surprise for the both of us. That night at dinner they brought out this cake made from passion fruit. OMG was it delicious. They also serenaded us with a love song. It was quite a night and we split the cake with those passengers that dined with us. I think they were happy they chose to sit with us that night.

 

Front View of the Cologne Cathedral Church

 

The bus picked us up at the ship and took us into Cologne, passing all sorts of architecture, housing and retail structures along with transportation venues such as their train system and buses. Europe has a large step up on the US when it comes to mass transportation, just like Asia. We disembarked and followed our guide Peter from the bus to the Cologne Cathedral, which is located adjacent to the train station and Old Town. It is a magnificent structure, as are most of the churches in Europe. Cologne Cathedral is the fourth-tallest church building in the world at 157.4 m (516 ft). It’s construction started in August of 1248. As most buildings built centuries ago it is always being updated and repaired.

 

 

Cologne Sculptures to the Side of a Cathedral Door

 

It is the seat of the Archbishop of Cologne and of the administration of the Archdiocese of Cologne. It is a renowned monument of German Catholicism and Gothic architecture and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. It is Germany’s most visited landmark, attracting an average of 20,000 people a day and currently the tallest twin-spired church at 157 m (515 ft) tall.

 

Cologne Cathedral Door

 

The cathedral suffered fourteen strikes by aerial bombs during World War II. Badly damaged, it nevertheless remained standing in an otherwise completely flattened city. The twin spires were an easily recognizable navigational landmark for Allied aircraft bombing.

 

 

Example of a Cologne Cathedral Door with Sculptured Trim

 

The cathedral and the immediate area surrounding it was the site of intense tank skirmish between American tanks of the 3rd Armored Division and a Panther of Panzerbrigade 106 on March 6, 1945. The Panther successfully knocked out two Sherman tanks killing three men before it was demolished by a T26E3 Pershing hours later. The destroyed Panther was later put on exhibit at the base of the cathedral for the rest of the war in Europe.

 

 

Cologne Cathedral with Kim

 

Repairs were completed in 1956. An emergency repair on the northwest tower’s foundation carried out in 1944 using poor-quality brick, taken from a nearby demolished structure remained evident until 2005 as a reminder of the war, when it was decided to bring back the segment to its initial appearance.

 

Cologne Cathedral Photos from World War II with General Dwight D Eisenhower

 

Preservation work is continually being administered in one or another section of the building, which is rarely completely free of scaffolding, as wind, rain, and pollution slowly attack the stones. The Dombauhütte, established to build the cathedral and keep it in repair, is said to use the best stonemasons of the Rhineland.

 

Behind the cathedral is an area that memorializes the Archbishops and Cardinals from the history of the Church. As we walked past I saw several parishioners offering prayers for the church officials that had passed on, or at least I assumed that was their intent. Obviously they could have been praying for relatives or themselves, but given the location I think my thought was legitimate.

 

Cologne Cathedral Burial Ground Tributes to Archbishops, Cardinals and Church Dignitaries

 

After touring the Cathedral and visiting the exterior, we continued our walking tour. In the back of the Cathedral was a young gentleman blowing huge bubbles to the delight of all children both young and old. I was enthralled by the beauty of such a simple task. Younger children kept running around trying to burst the bubbles and it was a genuine treat.

 

Gentleman Blowing Bubbles at the Rear of the Cologne Cathedral

 

Once we left the Cathedral and began walking through Old Town, we encountered several Brauhauses, The German version of a brewery and or bar. They served any one of age and several members of our tour sampled the adult beverages once we finished. I was afraid I would get lost so during the tour rather than run into the chocolate shop and sample their goods, hence we waited and of course I forgot to visit the chocolate shop later on.

 

Cologne Brauhaus Gaffel Kolsch and Chocolate Shop with Viking Guide Peter

 

Another brauhaus with a stellar reputation, specializing in kolsch (a clear, top-fermented beer with a bright, straw-yellow hue similar to other beers brewed from mainly Pilsener malt.) according to our guide. Reviews also state their Bratwurst is excellent.

 

Cologne Brauhaus Sion

 

Our guide Peter informed us that all servers at Oktoberfest were to carry a tray similar to this with eleven different beers. That seems to be a large sampling of flavors in my humble opinion. I am not sure even in my younger days, I could have managed to down that many beverages. Apparently though it is a normal tradition and many beer imbibers drink this amount.

 

Cologne Brauhaus Normal Tray with 11 Glasses

 

Cologne had several museums both historical and art fashioned. Of note is the Roman Germanic museum which has a piece dating back to 220 AD. It’s the Dionysus mosaic. It was discovered in 1941 by workers building an air raid shelter. In addition these large heavy stones pictured below are on display. I can’t imagine how heavy they are or how strong their supports have to be.

 

Stones from the Cologne Roman Germanic Museum

 

The Museum Ludwig is a collection of modern art and includes Pop, abstract and surrealist art from Dali to Warhol to Lichtenstein and has one of the largest Picasso collections in Europe. The Mu­se­um Ludwig houses the main positions and trends in modern and contemporary art from the dawn of the 20th century up to the present.

 

Museum Ludwig

 

The museum I didn’t get to was the Chocolate museum which chronicles the 3,000 year history of chocolate beginning with the ancient American cultures such as the Mayas and Aztecs, proceeding through the baroque and industrialization periods and ending in the fine chocolate products of the modern day. The diversity of 5,000-years of cocoa’s cultural history is shown as well as modern chocolate production from the cocoa bean through to praline chocolate confectionery.

 

In the glass-walled production facility and chocolate workshop, visitors can experience how chocolate products are crafted in both mechanized and manual processes. How chocolate is made today is demonstrated in the production facility in the bow of the boat-styled museum building, which also houses the chocolate fountain. The fountain was specially constructed for the museum, an artistic structure filled with 200 kg of warm, liquid chocolate. Smooth, warm Lindt chocolate flows from four stainless steel spouts into a fountain bowl.

 

 

 

Cologne Old Town Forest of the Dolls Side View

 

In the center of Old Town was this sculpture “Forest of the Dolls”. It was designed as a tribute to the young children, who bought water to the surface through small shafts in buckets from the surrounding Rhineland. The children were paid for this work until the 1500’s when pumps started bringing the water to the surface. This forced the children to live in the streets or underground tunnels and they became beggars. The other story is that elves used to do all the repair work after World War II at night, so the workers could be lazy and drink adult beverages all day. This may hold some truth as the city is filled with brauhauses. This sculpture is dedicated to both stories and contains a plethora of elves in various forms.

 

Eau de Cologne Retail Store #4711

 

It was fascinating to see this retail store pointed out on tour by our guide. When I was a young man this cologne was very popular and sold all over the country. I had no idea it originated in Cologne Germany in 1709. Eau de cologne contains a mixture of citrus oils including oils of lemon, orange, tangerine, clementine, bergamot, lime, grapefruit, blood orange and bitter orange. It can also contain oils of neroli, lavender, rosemary, thyme, oregano, petitgrain (orange leaf), jasmine, olive, oleaster and tobacco. In contemporary American English usage, the term “cologne” has become a generic term for perfumes usually marketed towards men.

 

 

Open Air Retail Pastry Store with a Plethora of Bees

 

As we continued walking around Old Town we came upon an open-aired pastry shop that appeared to be very successful. Customers filled the sales floor and were interacting with sale people. I didn’t notice at first that all the pastry cases were full of sweet pastries covered in bees. I’m not entirely sure of the benefit or the attraction, but I have never seen so many bees in one place except in a hive. I was awestruck and took several photos and one short video. This was a first for me, but apparently the customers were used to this as they interacted with the sales force without showing any emotion or distaste at the bees. The bees literally covered all the various cakes, breads and other offer rings. It still puzzles me.

 

Cologne Cathedral from the Festival

 

As we walked back to the place to meet the shuttle bus across the river we encountered a festival of some type that seemed to specialize in children’s fantasy, toys, clothing and other merchandise. It began raining softly and most of the customers dispersed. That gave me an opportunity to take this photo with the wet bricks and Cathedral in the background. It’s one of my favorite photos of our cruise!

 

Hohenzollernbrucke Bridge Lovers Padlocks

 

As we walked across the Rhine on the Hohenzollernbrucke Bridge I was struck by the outlandish number of padlocks. Across Europe and other parts of the world it has become common place for lovers to state their affection for one another by writing a phrase on a padlock, attaching it to the bridge and tossing the keys away. At first I thought it was a unique form of passion and was truly a way to express one’s love for another. After traveling so much and seeing so many locks across the world it has become rather common and has horrible implications once the bridge becomes filled with locks. What happens to the padlocks when the locks fill the bridge and they have to be removed for safety reasons? Are they thrown away in refuse dumps? Are they melted down and reused? Who knows, but it is a concern for me. It has become an eyesore in some people’s mind. I would love to know the answer. If you have experience with this please comment and let me know. I would appreciate your feedback.

 

So it’s on to Koblenz and the Middle Rhine. If you haven’t experienced this section of the Rhine river you have a world of castles and architecture you are missing. #myvikingstory #vikingcruises

 

 

 

 

 

 

***Portions of our cruise were sponsored by Viking River Cruises. All opinions, as always, are those of my own.

Viking Cruises, Kinderdijk Windmills

 

I am fairly certain most of my followers understand my more than modest passion for history and my sincere love for UNESCO World Heritage Sites. One of the aspects that first drew my attention to Viking River Cruises was their ability to share these sites with their passengers on their river cruises. I am totally enthralled by all the historical locations available for one to visit, when taking a cruise with Viking.

 

The Rhine Getaway on the Viking Longship Eir was no different and on our first day we were able to visit the Kinderdijk Windmills and explore history dating back to 1738. The windmills were originally constructed and used as vehicles for draining the polders, which are a low-lying tract of land enclosed by dikes and in this case intended to keep the water from the junction of the Lek and Noord rivers from overrunning the dikes.  The windmills are located 9 miles/15 Kilometers east of Rotterdam.

 

UNESCO Kinderdijk Windmill

 

After our Cheese making tour to the Holland dairy farm, we rode the bus through Kinderdijk and alongside the dikes. The story of the dikes is fascinating, as the dikes had been originally built nearly 300 years ago to keep water out of the farming land. To do this they had to configure a method to pump water out of the surrounding farmland, as it continued to flood after the advent of dikes. They discovered that an additional way to keep the polders dry was required.

 

Large canals, called “weteringen”, were dug to get rid of the excess water in the polders. However, the drained soil started setting, while the level of the river rose due to the river’s sand deposits. The land was basically peat (an accumulation of partially decayed vegetation or organic matter that is unique to natural areas called peatlands, bogs, mires, moors or muskegs.) Essentially they weren’t able to maintain it as farm land. They were then required to make the decision to switch all farms to dairy operations.

 

Three UNESCO Kinderdijk Windmills Alongside the Canals

 

In addition, it was decided to build a series of windmills, with a limited capacity to bridge water level differences (similar to current day locks on major rivers), but just able to pump water into a reservoir at an intermediate level between the soil in the polder and the river; the reservoir could be pumped out into the river by other windmills whenever the river level was low enough; the river level has both seasonal and tidal variations. Although some of the windmills are still used, the main water works are provided by two diesel pumping stations near one of the entrances of the windmills site.

 

The Diesel Fueled Archimedes Screw Used to Drain the Polders Currently

 

There are over 1000 windmills in Holland. Some are still being used for drainage, such as one or two of the nineteen in Kinderdijk. The Molen de Otter, still in operation in Amsterdam, is also used for drainage. The Molen de Valk in Leiden has been restored and now grinds grain once again. It is also a museum, a witness to the history of windmills in the area. The few mills that still turn are on the verge of losing power: with buildings around them getting higher (an interesting conundrum if I do say so), they can no longer catch the wind as they used to.

 

Diagram of Windmill Internal Gears Reflecting the Mechanical Operation

 

Our guide led us to a Kinderdijk windmill that was inhabited and we were allowed to climb through the windmill. I have to say it’s a very crowded place to live with basically no privacy, not to mention the extreme the angle of the stairs inside. I basically had to turn around and walk backwards down the stairs. The angle sufficiently frightened me so, that I couldn’t walk forward down the stairs, for fear of tumbling face first. I can only guess the inhabitants managed to overcome any fears similar to mine.

 

The different levels were separated by gender with the males sleeping on the second floor and the females on the third floor. Families had large amounts of children to help with the windmill operation. As explained by our guide, it was back breaking work and families never knew when they would be needed to help harness the wind and save the dikes from flooding. The families had to be on the ready 24 hours a day. Missing gusts of winds might allow flooding in the farmlands.

 

Kim in Windmill Women’s Level with Bed and a Closet for Basic Necessities

 

We came across a rail with the infamous wooden shoes of Holland. I thought it wasn’t a serious display until Robert explained they were mandatory in the peat and wet ground surrounding the windmills. If the population attempted to wear their normal cloth or leather footwear, it would be a serious mistake. Water penetrated both types of normal shoe gear and could lead to health problems or at minimum wet, cold feet in the winter. I was really surprised people actually had a need for these shoes. Can you imagine trying to maneuver around the thin blades of the fan with these clodhoppers on? I would surely not be able to master this task I’m guessing.

 

An Interior Rail Filled with Holland’s Infamous Wooden Shoes

 

After exploring the internal workings and living arrangements, Robert our astute and humorous Viking guide, explained how this huge gear wheel outside controlled the windmill blades similar to a ship’s wheel steers a sailboat. I can only gather it was fashioned after the same device. He told us how the young males would scamper up and down the fan blade frames to unfurl the material used to capture the wind and spin the Windmill. It was dangerous work, especially for the younger unskilled boys. One miss step and they could fall to their death. Can you imagine asking your children to scale a fan blade 35 feet in the air, knowing if they slipped it would certainly be extreme injury or even death? I’m not sure I could.

 

 

Robert Explaining the External Gear for Windmill Operation

 

Exploring windmills in Holland is an exciting thing to do. The Dutch have restored many of the historic sites. Once a year Holland holds “National Mill Day”.  Every second Saturday in May 600 windmills and watermills around the country open their doors to visitors. It’s an opportunity to see some of the historic mills that are no longer open day to day.  A great way to see these mills is by bicycle. Talk to anyone at a tourist information office and they’ll be able to give you a route by some of the most beautiful mills.

 

Two UNESCO Kinderdijk Windmills Beside the Canal we Explored

 

Flood control is an important issue for the Netherlands, as about sixty five percent of its area is sensitive to flooding, while the country is among the most densely populated on Earth. Natural sand dunes and constructed dikes, dams, and floodgates provide fortification against storm surges from the sea. River dikes prevent flooding from water flowing into the country by the major rivers Rhine and Meuse, while a intricate system of drainage ditches, canals, and pumping stations (historically: windmills) keep the low-lying parts dry for dwelling and farming.

 

After walking through the windmills and exploring the areas surrounding the canal Robert took us into a classroom that contained several spare parts for windmills and in the past had been used to help new tenants to understand the operation of the windmills so they could maintain them during their stay. It was a great session and Robert helped us understand the windmills’ function and how hard it was to keep them in operation.

 

Robert, Our Viking Guide, Reviewing History of Windmills

 

In modern times, flood disasters coupled with technological developments have led to large construction works to reduce the impact of the sea and prevent future floods. It is also a matter of survival. Twenty-six percent of the country is below sea level. This was overwhelming to me. This is a significant portion of the country to be at risk.

Historical accounts state that windmills in Holland served many purposes. The most important probably was pumping water out of the lowlands and back into the rivers beyond the dikes so that the land could be farmed. A immense North Sea storm in January 1953 flooded 500 square miles and killed more than 1,800 people. Therefore a large amount of study has gone into protecting the marsh lands and low lying farms that are really only good for dairy farming now.

 

Three UNESCO Kinderdijk Windmills

 

The flood-threatened area of the Netherlands is fundamentally an earthly plain, built up from sediment left by thousands of years of flooding by rivers and the sea. About 2,000 years ago most of the Netherlands was covered by extensive peat swamps. The coast consisted of a row of coastal dunes and natural embankments which kept the swamps from draining but also from being washed away by the sea. The only areas suitable for habitation were on the higher grounds in the east and south and on the dunes and natural embankments along the coast and the rivers.

 

It never ceases to amaze me how man’s ingenuity is instrumental in resolving issues that arise throughout history. The Dutch people have sincerely faced adversity and calamity after calamity in regards to the low lands that have been used in various manners throughout the years. Flooding and extreme saturation of land is not a simple problem to mend, yet they have altered methods of existence to survive. There is no doubt the will to survive trumps all dilemmas that may arise.

 

 

 

 

 

***Portions of our cruise were sponsored by Viking River Cruises. All opinions, as always, are those of my own.

Galveston Holiday Events

Galveston Holiday Events to Include New ‘Downtown Lanterns & Lights’ PLUS Cirque Joyeux Noel Show

 

It’s Island Time Galveston

 

GALVESTON, Texas (Oct. 10, 2017) –A new event will light up downtown Galveston this holiday season as part of the island’s eight weeks of “Winter Wonder Island” festivities.

 

‘Downtown Lanterns and Lights’ will feature a magical display of Christmas trees and other artisan made pieces as they illuminate Saengerfest Park from Nov. 24 through Jan. 2. The park will also feature an interactive photo frame and a giant snow globe that visitors can enter for family photos. The photo props will be available Nov. 25-26 and Dec. 9, 16 and 23.

 

In addition, performers from ‘America’s Got Talent’ will be featured in the new Cirque Joyeux Noel Dinner & Show taking place Dec.15-25 at the Moody Gardens Hotel. The show tells an entertaining holiday story through acrobatics, illusions and comedy. The international cast includes The Pompeyo family and their amazing rescue dogs as seen on NBC’s hit show “America’s Got Talent.”

 

Tickets to the Cirque Joyeux Noel show include a buffet dinner and admission to Festival of Lights at Moody Gardens, the largest holiday lighting festival on the Gulf Coast. Festival of Lights – which includes a mile-long trail of more than 100 sound-enhanced animated light displays, ice skating, snow tubing and more – will take place Nov. 11- Jan. 7. Plus, one of the island’s most popular holiday attractions, ICE LAND, will return to Moody Gardens for its fourth year with a brand new “Rainforest Holiday” theme within a 28,000-square-foot ice sculpture attraction featuring 2 million pounds of ice.

 

While Moody Gardens has plenty of exciting attractions, the entire island will offer holiday cheer with eight weeks of “Winter Wonder Island” events and festivities. Here’s a look at what is happening in Galveston this holiday season:

 

“ICE LAND” at Moody Gardens
Date: Nov. 11 – Jan. 7
Time: 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily
Where: Moody Gardens, 1 Hope Blvd., Galveston, TX
Admission: $26.95 adults; $21.95 seniors; $21.95 children
Info: www.moodygardens.org/holiday_season

Description: This holiday season, Moody Gardens will be home to the coolest experience on the Gulf Coast, where visitors can explore a 28,000-square-foot “ice land” with a new Rainforest Holiday theme for 2017. Professional ice carvers will use 2 million pounds of ice to create this amazing exhibit featuring majestic rainforest themed ice sculptures, slides and even a Shivers Ice Bar serving cool libations for adults.

 

Festival of Lights at Moody Gardens 
Date: Nov. 11 – Jan. 7
Time: 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. nightly
Where: Moody Gardens, 1 Hope Blvd., Galveston, TX
Admission: $10.95
Info: www.moodygardens.org/holiday_season

Description: Brighten up the wintry season at the 16th annual Festival of Lights at Moody Gardens taking place Nov. 11 through Jan. 7. Here, guests can enjoy the largest holiday lighting event on the Gulf Coast, featuring a mile-long trail of more than 100 sound-enhanced animated light displays. Visitors to the festival can also go ice-skating at the Moody Gardens outdoor ice rink or snow tubing on the Arctic Ice Slide.

 

Festival of Lights at Moody Gardens

 

Holiday Performances at The Grand 1894 Opera House
Date: Nov. 12 – Jan. 13
Time: Varies
Where: The Grand 1894 Opera House, 2020 Postoffice St., Galveston, TX
Admission: Varies
Info: www.thegrand.com

Description: The Grand 1894 Opera House will kick off the holiday season with a variety of exciting performances, including An Evening with Sophia Loren at 4 p.m. Nov. 12,Willie Nelson & Family at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 13, STOMP at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Nov. 18, Christmas Wonderland Holiday Spectacular at 8 p.m. Nov. 24 and 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Nov. 25, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol at 8 p.m. Dec. 1 and 3 p.m. Dec. 2, The City Ballet of Houston Presents The Nutcracker Dec. 9 and 10, The Texas Tenors: Deep in the Heart of Christmas at 8p.m. Dec. 15, Jerry Jeff Walker at 8 p.m. Dec. 16, and The Official Blues Brother’s Revue at 8 p.m. Jan. 13

 

Downtown Lanterns & Lights 
Date:  Nov. 24- Jan. 2
Time: Varies
Where: Saengerfest Park, 23rd and Strand Street, Galveston TX
Admission: Free
Info:www.downtowngalveston.org

Description: ‘Downtown Lanterns and Lights’ will feature a magical display of Christmas trees and other artisan made pieces as they illuminate Saengerfest Park from Nov. 24 through Jan. 2. The park will also feature an interactive photo frame and a giant snow globe that visitors can enter for family photos. The snow globe will be available Nov. 25-26 and Dec. 9, 16 and 23.

 

Hotel Galvez Holiday Lighting Celebration
Date:  Nov. 24
Time: 6 p.m.
Where: Hotel Galvez, 2024 Seawall Blvd., Galveston, TX
Admission: Free
Info: www.hotelgalvez.com

Description: The historic Hotel Galvez & Spa invites guests to celebrate the start of the holidays Nov. 24 with the official City of Galveston Holiday Lighting Celebration.This free event includes a special appearance by Santa Claus, live holiday entertainment by local performers, including the Galveston Ballet, and the lighting of the hotel’s 35-foot Christmas tree. The hotel will offer a special weekend package as part of the event.

 

Holiday Shopping Amid the Victorian Charm of Galveston’s Historic Downtown 
Date: Nov. 24 – Dec.24
Time: Varies
Where: Downtown Historic Strand District
Admission: Free
Info: www.galveston.com/holidaymagic

Description: Nothing says holiday like the Victorian charm of Galveston’s 36-block Downtown Historic Strand District. Kick off your holiday shopping amid the district’s charming Victorian architecture for unique gift options at the many boutiques, art galleries, antique shops and other novelty stores. Some festive favorites include Christmas on the Strand, Hendley Market, Eighteen Seventy One, Visker and Scriveners and more.

 

Hendley Green Holiday Kickoff and Tree Lighting
Date: Nov. 26
Time: 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Where: Hendley Green Park & Eighteen Seventy One gift shop
Admission: Free
Info: www.galvestonhistory.org/events

Description: Hendley Green Park and specialty gift shop Eighteen Seventy One are coming together to offer a day of family-friendly fun. Children of all ages are encouraged to bring their letters to Santa for mailing off before the holidays in a specially crafted mailbox. Eighteen Seventy One, located adjacent to Hendley Green Park, will welcome guests with special discounts, refreshments, popcorn and more from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.A special prize wheel will be available for a chance to win tickets to Dickens on The Strand, the Galveston Historic Homes Tour and more. Hendley Green Park will offer craft beer from 2 to 7 p.m., a visit with Santa from 3 to 5 p.m., family-friendly games throughout the afternoon and a special Christmas tree lighting at 6:30 p.m.

 

Victorian Holiday Homes Tour
Date: Dec. 1
Time: 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Where: East End Historical District
Admission: $20
Info: www.eastendhistoricdistrict.org

Description: The island’s East End Historical District will hosts its annual Victorian Holiday Homes Tour featuring a variety of private historic homes. The public will be able to explore several private historic homes all decked out for the holidays.

 

44thAnnual Dickens on the Strand
Date: Dec. 1 – 3
Time: Varies
Where: Strand St., Historic Downtown Galveston, Galveston, TX
Admission: Friday admission is free. For Saturday/Sunday early bird tickets (purchased before Dec. 1): adults $13; children $7. At the gate: adults $15, children $9
Info: www.dickensonthestrand.org

Description: The first weekend in December, don’t miss Dickens on The Strand. The festival transforms Galveston’s historic Strand Street into the Victorian London of Charles Dickens Dec. 1-3. Enjoy libations at Fezziwig’s Beer Hall on Friday from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday admission is free. On Saturday, festival goers will see characters from Dickens novels walk the streets and costumed vendors peddle their wares from street stalls and rolling carts laden with holiday food and drink, Victorian-inspired crafts, clothing, jewelry, holiday decorations and gifts. Strolling carolers and roving musicians will fill the area with enchanting sounds from another era as “steam punks” entertain the crowds. Attendees in Victorian costume are admitted for half price.

 

Dickens on The Strand Christmas Town Crier

 

Cheer on the Pier!
Date: Dec. 2, 9, 16 and 23
Time: Varies
Where: Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier (25th Street and Seawall Boulevard)
Admission: Varies
Info: www.pleasurepier.com/stage25.html

Description: Spend Saturdays in December at the Pleasure Pier with Santa! Families can watch holiday movies; enjoy fun festivities and rides! Activities at Santa’s Workshop are from 12. to 4 p.m. and include photos with Santa, letters to Santa and cookie decorating. Holiday movies will take place from 7 to 9 p.m.

 

Sunday Brunch with Santa at Hotel Galvez
Date: Dec.3, 10, 17, 24
Time: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Where: Hotel Galvez, 2024 Seawall Blvd., Galveston, TX
Admission: Adults $42.99; children $26.99; seniors $37.99
Info: www.hotelgalvez.com

Description: Hotel Galvez’ famous Sunday brunch will be full of cheer this holiday season with visits from Santa Dec. 3, 10, 17 and 24. Brunch will be served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and children are invited to visit with Santa to share their Christmas wish list. Advance reservations are recommended. For more information and to make a reservation, call 409-765-7721.

 

Holiday in the Park
Date: December 9, 2017
Time: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Where: Saengerfest Park, 2302 Strand St., Galveston, TX
Admission: Free
Info: www.galvestonholidayinthepark.com

Description: Bring the family to downtown Galveston’s Saengerfest Park for a day of holiday tunes from area school choirs, bands and church choirs at the annual Holiday in the Park. Children will also be able to visit and take pictures with Santa.

 

Santa on The Strand and other Santa Sightings
Date: Dec. 9, 16 and 23
Time: 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Saengerfest Park, 2302 Strand St., Galveston, TX
Admission: Free
Info: www.galveseton.com/holidaymagic

Description: Visitors to downtown Galveston can take part in free festivities held at Saengerfest Park this December. Santa will make a special appearance from 1 to 4 p.m. and will take photos with children in front of the downtown Christmas tree. Be sure to also catch island-wide Santa Sightings throughout the season including photos with Santa at Moody Gardens daily Dec. 15-23, Santa at The Grand 1894 Opera House Nov. 25, Breakfast with Santa at Rainforest Café Dec. 16 and 23, and Breakfast with Santa at The San Luis Resort Blake’s Bistro Dec. 17.

 

Surfing Santa at Schlitterbahn

 

Holiday with the Cranes
Date: Dec. 9-10
Time: Varies
Where: Locations vary
Admission: From $25 to $60
Info: www.galvestonnaturetourism.org.

Description: For a unique holiday experience, join the Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council for “Holiday with the Cranes.” This annual birding event will be held Dec. 9-10 as outdoor enthusiasts celebrate the arrival of these large, majestic birds of ancient origin. Events include indoor and outdoor nature activities and presentations combined with the ambiance of historical Galveston Island.

 

Cirque Joyeux Noel Dinner & Show at Moody Gardens Hotel
Date: Dec. 15-25
Time: 7:45 p.m.
Where: Moody Gardens Convention Center, 7 Hope Blvd., Galveston, TX
Admission: Prices start at $39 for children and $59 for adults
Info: www.moodychristmasshow.com

Description: Experience the magnificent and the impossible at Moody Gardens this holiday season as it hostsCirque Joyeux Noel Dinner and Show. The show features a stellar cast of international performers from all over the world and includes amazing acrobatics, mesmerizing illusions, hilarious comedy and more.This year’s holiday show features all-new acts including The Pompeyo Family and their amazing rescue dogs featured on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.” Tickets to the show include a holiday buffet dinner and admission to Festival of Lights.

 

Santa Train at the Galveston Railroad Museum
Date: Dec. 16
Time: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Where: Galveston Railroad Museum, 2602 Santa Fe Place, Galveston, TX
Admission: $12 adults (ages 13+); $5 train rides (ages 2+)
Info: www.galvestonrrmuseum.com

Description: Santa is coming to town aboard the Galveston Railroad Museum’s Harborside Express train! The museum’s annual Santa Train event will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 16. Bring your wish list to visit with Santa, stroll through the museum’s Garden of Steam and enjoy festive holiday lights, decorations and crafts.

 

Santa Hustle Half Marathon & 5K
Date: Dec. 17
Time: 8 a.m.
Where: Downtown Historic Galveston
Admission: Varies
Info: www.santahustle.com

Description: Runners will have a “jolly good time” Dec. 17 in Galveston at the annual Santa Hustle! This wacky event will feature thousands of “Santas” along the gorgeous Gulf waters for half marathon and 5K races. All event participants will receive a Santa suit long sleeve t-shirt, a free Santa hat and beard to wear while running, and will be able to stop at cookie and candy stations along their routes.

 

Christmas Day Brunch at Hotel Galvez
Date: Dec. 25
Time: 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Where: Hotel Galvez, 2024 Seawall Blvd., Galveston, TX
Admission: Adults $42.99; children $26.99; seniors $37.99
Info: www.hotelgalvez.com

Description: Hotel Galvez is widely known for its Sunday Brunch, but the hotel brunch on Christmas Day is an even grander affair. The hotel features all the traditional entrees along with special features created by the executive chef. Seating times are from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Advance reservations are required and must be made directly with the hotel by calling 409.765.7721. Reservations will be accepted beginning Tuesday, Nov. 28.

 

About Galveston Island

Galveston Island is the “Winter Wonder Island” of Texas, featuring more than 50 days of holiday festivities and more than 1,000 holiday events during the winter season. The island is home to the largest holiday lighting event on the Gulf Coast, Festival of Lights at Moody Gardens, as well as the nationally known Victorian Christmas festival Dickens on The Strand among many other attractions. For more information on holiday activities in Galveston, visitwww.galveston.com/holidaymagic.

 

 

 

Viking Cruises, Kinderdijk Cheese Making Experience

Surprisingly after sleeping all night our first night on board the Longship Eir of the Viking River Cruises European fleet, I felt fairly refreshed and eager to begin my first day of our Rhine Getaway cruise on the historical Rhine river. I say this because the first night on the ship I somehow convinced my wife Kim to take the optional tour involving cheese making. My wife strangely enough, doesn’t eat cheese unless it’s melted or included in a prepared dish. We ate breakfast early and assembled at the meeting place, eager to taste authentic Netherlands cheese, or at least I was very enthusiastic. I have to thank Kim for being a good trooper and accompanying me on this tour.

 

On the way to the farm we learned that several farms in the area had dairy operations, but only a few had cheese making capabilities. The farm we were headed to had started several years ago making cheese when the farmer’s wife decided to expand her cheese making capabilities and offer it to the public, never knowing how successful it would become. The farmer announced at the cattle barn his portion of the overall operation was limited in profitability and the majority of the family’s income came from his wife’s cheese making enterprise.

 

Giessenlander Gouda Original Cheese, My Option

 

The farms are equal in layout and are approximately 40 acres in total, some with multiples of the 40 acre plots. The Netherlands, also called Holland in this and nearby areas of the Netherlands have specific laws applicable to the fair and humane treatment of farm animals. Each cow is mandated an acre for free range grass feeding when the weather allows and all dairy farmers are required to give their cows  120 days a year of at least six hours grazing in the meadows per day. This insures appropriate feeding to satisfy Dutch requirements.

 

Empty Cheese Whip Vat

 

We were taken on a tour of the cheese making operation that is entirely dedicated to the production of fresh Gouda cheese. The farmer’s oldest daughter led the excursion and was quite knowledgeable. She explained that her Mother actually began making Gouda cheese in her kitchen and it became popular with the neighbors and soon grew into a fairly good sized business.

 

Gouda Cheese Whip Vat Filled with Cultures

 

The above photo represents the first step in the cheese making process. The large mixer stirs the combination warm milk and rennet which is the lining from the cow’s fourth stomach. This merger forms cultures that begin the cheese. This vat held 300 gallons I believe or the metric equivalent. Whey is the liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and strained. About a third of this liquid is poured off, although some people retain it for use as a nutritional supplement in bodybuilding and it is the primary ingredient in most protein powders.

 

A little trivia for those interested, Gouda is the name of a Dutch town where Gouda cheese was developed in the thirteenth century.

 

Kim Holds a Bottle of Cultures for Gouda Cheese

 

After the cheese is formed by pressing it together in a mold lined with cheesecloth, it’s  pressed into its final wheel shape and the first stages of the cheese are finished. It is then soaked in a brine solution of salt and water. After this process it is dipped over and over into this vat of wax that seals the completed product and forms the covering you are familiar with when purchasing your Gouda cheese at the local grocery store. This is the farmer’s daughter who will take over the cheese making operation at this farm when her Mother retires. Very astute young lady and undeniably works very long hours every day!

 

Gouda Cheese Dipping Station

 

We learned that all Low Fat Gouda cheese blocks have a square edge. This identifies it as a product with less calories. I was surprised that a market existed for this product as I am a full flavored cheese lover and I thought most people were of that tradition. The young lady below puts the finishing touches on her Low Fat wheels in preparation for sales.

 

Low Fat Cheese with Straight Edge

 

I was also very amazed at how many flavors of Gouda cheese existed and how they were significantly different in taste. The photo below reflects many of the various flavors. The black wheels are truffle flavored and obviously more expensive. I have to say my black truffle sample was delicious. The red wheels are paprika flavored Gouda and I loved its taste also. The green wheel represented pesto. The speckled wheel were flavored with chopped walnuts. Don’t tell anyone, but I had seconds on several of the samples. I wound up purchasing the original flavored Gouda, but came very close to buying the Cayenne flavor, as I like spicy foods.

 

Flavors of Gouda including, Pesto, Paprika, Truffle, Walnut, Cayenne, Low Fat, and Original

 

After tasting multiple samples and buying my original flavored wheel (small, maybe a pound) we were led into the dairy barn where the dairy farmer explained the operation of managing the dairy cattle. This was dear to my heart, as my grandfather was a dairy farmer in Kansas for over 40 years. As a young man we visited his dairy farm every year, usually at Thanksgiving and I cherished those times after I grew up. Being back in that operation, even though it was in Holland, made the memories flood through my brain. My brothers and I loved exploring his barns and learning about dairy cattle. My only issue was my grandparents didn’t have indoor plumbing until I was fifteen years old. I won’t go into all the associated issues with this.

 

 

Fifth Generation Farmer Giving His Talk on the Operation of the Dairy Farm

 

The barn was divided into two sections with milk producing cows on one side and cows who were pregnant or ready for insemination on the other side with the one bull he owned. As illustrated below the cows are very friendly and very curious. They want to reach out and let you know they are there. You have to be careful though as the cow’s tongues are rough and almost like sandpaper. They can really do damage if you aren’t careful and one can wind up with very bad scratches and abrasions.

 

Farmer and Kim Listening Attentively

 

Contrary to the feedlots in the US, this Holland operation had very widely spaced holding areas for the cows and the cows weren’t in any discomfort as in some of the American feedlots. They are all 100% Holstein cattle and the milking cows were milked twice daily via a robotic machine. I was used to actual hand milking as a young man and couldn’t believe how advanced the milking operation is today. We weren’t able to see the milking operation, as it begins at 5:00 AM daily and the second milking is at approximately 7:00 PM nightly.

 

Holstein Cows Located on the Milking Side of the Barn

 

They are fed hay daily and none of them looked malnourished by any means. In fact they might have been heavy by what I am used to at my Grandfather’s farm. The farmer had fed them earlier in the day and a few small stacks of hay remained.

 

The cows are very curious as I said above and I have to tell you about what happened to Kim. She was wearing a wrap that day as there was a chill in the air and she got too close to one of the cows. I didn’t get a good photo of what transpired, but you can guess from the ripples in her wrap. Yes the cow started eating her wrap and was pulling Kim towards the holding pen. It was hilarious and everyone got a great laugh from the cow’s action. I really wished I had a video of the event, as everyone laughed very heartily and I laughed so hard it almost brought tears to my eyes. It was hysterical.

 

 

Cows Literally Trying to Eat Kim’s Wrap

 

Overall I would definitely recommend the “Cheese Making Tour” which is an optional tour and not included in the original package. It was a very nice experience to see how Gouda cheese is made and best of all, the ability to sample all those flavors was fantastic. We then headed over to the Kinderdijk windmills and joined the rest of the ship’s passengers that opted for the UNESCO windmill tour.

 

 

 

 

 

***Portions of our cruise were sponsored by Viking River Cruises. All opinions, as always, are those of my own.

Viking Cruises, Photo of the Day #18

This will be my first post from our most recent Viking River Cruise, “Rhine Getaway”. I can’t begin to tell you how awesome this trip was. We were treated like royalty, encountered wonderful architecture. learned a vast amount of history and almost couldn’t digest all the fantastic attributes of this recent journey abroad to Europe. Thankfully Viking was able to soothe our wounded frustrations after a beleaguered start. Our flight from DFW was delayed by mechanical issues and we arrived three hours late. It is wonderful to have a warm, damp washcloth handed to you as soon as you enter the Longship Eir and the wash away all your tiredness and dirt from traveling. Viking knows how to soothe life’s irritations.

 

Kinderdijk Windmill on a Cloudy Day

 

On our first day sailing after leaving Amsterdam we arrived in a small community of Kinderdijk, the Netherlands. Everyone knows the Netherlands is associated with windmills, but I had no idea of the complexity of their operations or that individuals still resided in some of them. It’s an unusual sight to see the inside of the windmills and how close quartered they are. One thing is for sure people who operate and live in the windmills have to be very dedicated. They are constantly on call for any and all wind! There were 19 windmills in this Unesco granted area, so designated in 1997. All were originally built in 1740. Imagine the weather and abuse these mills have undertaken and are still standing.

 

 

 

***Portions of our cruise were sponsored by Viking River Cruises. All opinions, as always, are those of my own.

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