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 #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.

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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.

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